It's not easy to become president of the United States.
Donald Trump made it look easy in 2016, shocking most every political watcher. Hillary Clinton had the stronger political resume, but she lacked the pizzazz even to keep all of Barack Obama's supporters and, continuing a trend for the GOP, Trump rhetoric and attitude attracted big numbers among whites without college degrees. Clinton can always be proud of winning the popular vote, but it's the electoral vote that wins the presidency. In 2016, Trump took that by earning the Electoral College votes in Florida, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan by popular margins of 1.2 percent or less.
By 2020, Biden flipped three out of four of those states. Trump had solidified a rabid base of voters nationwide, but he'd also motivated people turned off by his policies and his style of leadership. In 2020, nearly 26.7 million more voters cast ballots than in 2016, earning the nominees of both parties millions more votes than either got four years earlier, but Biden ended up with about 7 million more.
Making all of that happen is hard. Only one Arkansan, another Clinton named Bill, has pulled it off a national victory, though several either native to or connected to this state have tried, among them: Benton County's William "Coin" Harvey (builder of Monte Ne, a resort now partially submerged in Beaver Lake), Gov. Orval Faubus, Gov. Winthrop Rockefeller, U.S. Rep. Wilbur D. Mills and Gen. Wesley Clark and Gov. Mike Huckabee.
It's a long way to 2024's presidential election, but the speed with which they arrive are a little like dog years in reverse -- a year in national politics seems like just a few months. Until they get closer, then the political ads slow down time, excruciatingly.
Our current governor, Asa Hutchinson, joins the list of Arkansans whose political lives and contributions have convinced them to ponder that tempting question of presidential politics: Why not me?
Hutchinson achieved a longtime personal goal nearly eight years ago when he was elected as Arkansas chief executive, but he's in his final year as a term-limited governor. From all appearances, Hutchinson is borrowing an attitude from the late country singer George Jones, who had a hit with "I don't need your rocking chair."
"Right now, I want to be a leading voice for a new direction for our party and our country," Hutchinson told the Democrat-Gazette after appearing national ... again ... on a Sunday morning talk show. "I'm not ruling out a presidential run."
He's planning multiple trips to key states in the months ahead. He's already been to New Hampshire.
Could he pull it off? Like we said, becoming president is hard. But what's not to like about a Hutchinson campaign? Unless the GOP is dead set to align itself with the unRepublican known as Donald Trump again -- surely there's a better personification of Republican values and ideas out there someplace -- Hutchinson's practicality has served the nation well and could again. In other words, he can govern. He can lead. And he's not going to destroy any pillars on which American democracy stands.
Just a few days ago, Hutchinson said his eventually decision will not rely on whether Trump makes another bid for the White House. Hutchinson has said he does not believe Trump is the right direction for the GOP.
It would be fun to see another Arkansan in the mix at the national level, bringing some good ol' Benton County common sense to the challenges that plague the nation.
Why not Hutchinson? If he joins the fray, we're sure there will be plenty of folks ready to answer that question.