The Arkansas governor, Asa Hutchinson, is considering a run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024 and would not be deterred if Donald Trump made an expected bid to return to the White House.
“No, it won’t [deter me],” Hutchinson told CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday.
“I’ve made it clear. I think we ought to have a different direction in the future and so I’m not aligned with [Trump] on some of his endorsements, but also the direction he wants to take our country.
“I think he did a lot of good things for our country, but we need to go a different direction and so that’s not a factor in my decision-making process.”
Trump is free to run – and has amassed huge campaign funding – after being acquitted in his second Senate impeachment trial, in which he was charged with inciting the deadly January 6 Capitol attack, in his attempt to overturn defeat by Joe Biden.
More than 20 years ago, Hutchinson was a House impeachment manager in the trial of Bill Clinton, over the 42nd president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. As Arkansas governor, Hutchinson now operates in the more moderate lane of Republican politics.
On CNN, he was asked about an appearance last week at a “Politics & Eggs” event in New Hampshire, a “traditional stop for any presidential hopeful” in an early voting state.
“You’ve got to get through course this year,” he said, “but that’s an option that’s on the table. And that’s one of the reasons I was in New Hampshire.”
Hutchinson used his CNN interview to take a shot at Ron DeSantis, another potential candidate in 2024, regarding the Florida governor’s battle with Disney over his anti-LGBTQ+ schools policy.
The Arkansas governor was also asked if he would support Kevin McCarthy, the House minority leader and an ardent Trump ally, to become speaker if Republicans take control in November.
He said: “Well, of course, you know, Speaker McCarthy, or excuse me, Majority Leader McCarthy has his own set of challenges within the caucus. And he’s got to be able to somehow bring that together.”
McCarthy was recently shown to have said Trump should resign in the aftermath of the Capitol attack, to have changed his tune to support the former president, and to have lied about what he told his party.
Hutchinson told CNN: “I would say that we had one message after January 6 among many of our leaders, recognising the problem with the insurrection. And that tone has changed and I believe that that’s an error.
“I don’t think we can diminish what happened on January 6. We’re going to be having hearings there in Congress and much of this will come out in public in June, and that’s not going to be helpful for those that diminish the significance of that event.
“And so that worries me in terms of not just the majority leader but also worries me in terms of other leaders that have diminished what happened on January 6.”