It’s not exactly earthshaking. But it is politically revealing. On Sunday, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he will not support a Donald Trump reelection bid in 2024.
Wise politicians do not normally announce their specific intentions 40 months before they have to. It’s another sign of the party’s ongoing , necessary and healthy struggle to address the turmoil of the Trump term and its political aftermath for the GOP’s future. It will have no impact on Trump’s ultimate decision, even if he is genuinely considering a political return.
But it is important. Arkansas has become a reliably red state. Hutchinson, a former representative who held several positions in the George W. Bush administration, is among the first of elected state Republicans to gently distance themselves from the controversial Trump. He did it warily as an overwhelming majority of Republicans still support Trump.
Next Sunday the former president will make his first public appearance and speech since leaving the White House at the annual CPAC conference of conservatives, held this year in Orlando. CPAC is a favorite Trump forum; in effect, he began his 2016 campaign with a 2011 speech there.
Aides say the adopted Republican plans to address the future of the GOP and President Biden’s immigration intentions, which are designed to undo Trump’s.
What aides say their boss will do and what the impulsive Trump actually does in front of a friendly crowd are often quite different. But his remarks and their likely warm reception will be closely watched as an early sign of his professed political intentions for the future.
It’s most likely the former president will keep his options open for now, which would give him continuing leverage and influence in coming months, among GOP loyalists and the media Trump loves to tease, tempt, play and goad.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Hutchinson did not volunteer his intentions. But when asked, he appeared to reply candidly:
I would not support him for reelection in 2024. He’s going to have a voice, but — as former presidents do. But there’s many voices in the party. And, again, he should not define our future. We have got to define it for ourself.
Hutchinson said the party must respond to Trump supporters who gave him the 2016 election and supported him throughout the term with conservative principles and ideas. But the GOP needs to do that with different voices in a different way. Read that as more civil.
(Trump) has a loud megaphone, but we have to have many different voices. And, in my view, we can’t let him define us for the future, because that would just further divide our country. And it would hurt our Republican Party.