In Hanover, Republican presidential candidate Hutchinson says party needs new direction

  • After his talk former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks with Dartmouth College sophomores Kevin Farrell, left, and Jordan Mann at the Rockefeller Center on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

  • Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks with Dartmouth College at the Rockefeller Center on Tuesday, Aug. 8, 2023, in Hanover, N.H. Hutchinson was there for the 2024 Presidential Candidate Speaker Series. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Valley News — Jennifer Hauck

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 8/9/2023 8:39:28 PM
Modified: 8/10/2023 8:31:04 AM

HANOVER — Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson eschewed the tall wooden podium onstage when he spoke at Dartmouth’s Rockefeller Center for Public Policy on Tuesday evening.

“I’m going to stand up here,” he said, staying on his feet directly in front of his approximately 40-person audience as he delivered a message about breaking down the country’s partisan barriers and upholding the rule of law.

Hutchinson, 72, emphasized his commitment to enforcing the rule of law, touting his experience as two-term governor of Arkansas, three-term U.S. representative from Arkansas’ third congressional district and his service in the Drug Enforcement Agency and Department of Homeland Security under George W. Bush.

While maintaining a calm and non-combative tone, Hutchinson made numerous not-so-subtle references to the series of indictments handed down in recent weeks against former President Donald Trump, his party’s leading candidate.

In a speech to Windham, N.H., voters Tuesday afternoon, Trump painted the charges against him as politically motivated and criticized special counsel Jack Smith, who charged him with four felonies in an Aug. 1 indictment.

Hutchinson implored Republican voters: “No matter what opinion you have on the current pending charges (…) do not throw our criminal justice system under the bus.”

“I’m running for president because we need a new direction in America,” he said, “but we also need a new direction in the Republican Party. We do not need to have Donald Trump as the nominee of the Republican Party.”

If Trump were reelected, Hutchinson said, “supercharged chaos” would ensue and “the rule of law and our justice system would be undermined.”

Hutchinson is part of a crowded Republican primary field and has yet to break through in the polls. As of Tuesday, he was polling at 0.9% to Trump’s 52.4% nationally, according to averages compiled by FiveThirtyEight.

In his talk, Hutchinson outlined what he called “a fairly typical conservation approach” to addressing other key policy issues.

Hutchinson said he supports a “pro-growth energy policy,” a “focus on the economy (and) balancing our budget,” plans to “reduce federal spending,” “an America that is strong and works well with our allies” and limiting the role of government in business regulation.

In the subsequent question-and-answer session, moderator and Dartmouth government professor Mia Costa asked Hutchinson what differentiates him from other Republican candidates.

“I think temperament is important in leadership, and I represent the opposite of chaos. I am normal,” he replied. He said he would “be a great general election candidate,” but acknowledged that “there’s going to have to be a collapse of the front-runner, Donald Trump,” in order for any other Republican candidate to advance to that stage.

Costa, who studies political behavior, said in an interview that she particularly appreciated Hutchinson’s “call for more civil discourse.” She agreed with Hutchinson that “bipartisanship and compromise” are “really important.”

Costa also questioned Hutchinson on his views about affirmative action and abortion. Hutchinson said he agrees with the recent Supreme Court ruling that struck down race-conscious college admissions policies but also believes “it is critically important that our leaders look to diversify the workforce.”

He said he would sign a federal abortion bill containing “reasonable exceptions with reasonable limitations,” including “exceptions of the life of the mother and cases of rape or incest,” despite signing an Arkansas near-total abortion ban into law in 2021 that did not include exceptions for rape or incest.

He later said in an interview that if “a 24-week bill” similar to the abortion law currently on the books in New Hampshire came to his desk as president, he would likely sign it into law if it included “the right exceptions.”

Asked by a Dartmouth student if he would end all new fossil fuel exploitation and exploration, Hutchinson said he wants America to “continue to produce from fossil fuels (…) in the most environmentally sensitive way possible.”

While “the government has a role to play,” he said, it also falls on “each individual home” to address climate change through practices such as recycling.

Dartmouth rising junior Josh Paul, a New Hampshire Republican voter from Westport, Conn., was not impressed by this response. “It was kind of a non-answer,” he said.

Paul did appreciate that Hutchinson was “openly critical of Trump,” but said there “wasn’t really a lot substantively said on a policy level” in the talk.

Hutchinson concluded the hourlong event by returning to his earlier refrain of bipartisan cooperation.

“One or two of you might disagree with me on a few issues. I know you do. But you showed a great deal of respect,” he told the audience, and that “excites me about our future.”

This resonated with William Tingle, a Hanover resident who is a registered Republican but doesn’t “feel stuck in the Republican role.”

“I liked his focus on bringing the country together,” Tingle said. Tingle hasn’t yet decided who he’ll be voting for in the primary, but he’s considering Hutchinson.

Carson Goh, a rising junior at Dartmouth and a Democrat from Nashua, won’t be voting in the Republican primary but came to hear Hutchinson speak nonetheless.

“It’s important to hear and listen to the other side,” Goh said. “Gov. Hutchinson provided a less extreme point of view than we see in a lot of Republican politics, so that was very refreshing.”

Beatrice Burack can be reached at bea.c.burack.25@dartmouth.edu.


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