Arkansas’ GOP Governor Says He Won’t Back Trump in the Next Election

"He will only define our party if we let him define our party," Gov. Asa Hutchinson told CNN on Sunday

Asa Hutchinson, Donald Trump
Asa Hutchinson (left) and Donald Trump. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty; Win McNamee/Getty

Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson says he won't support a future Donald Trump run for president just because he's a member of the same party, explaining to CNN over the weekend: "I would not support him for re-election in 2024."

Trump is widely expected to at least float the possibility of a 2024 campaign, after losing re-election to Joe Biden in November, and Hutchinson previously supported a potential Trump reelection bid.

But in the wake of the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters — who had listened that same day as Trump baselessly claimed that the country was being stolen out from under them — the Arkansas Republican says he has changed his mind.

"He will only define our party if we let him define our party," Hutchinson, 70, said in a Sunday appearance on CNN's State of the Union.

The governor continued: "He 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."

Hutchinson's break underlines the current division in the GOP about its future — after both Trump's loss and then January's Capitol attack, in which five people died. The House quickly charged Trump with incitement.

Those Republicans who spoke out against Trump, even voting to impeach or convict him in his Senate trial, have faced backlash from the conservative base.

At the same time, Trump has signaled he is not going to retreat into political retirement, instead planning to influence the 2022 midterms from Palm Beach, Florida.

Hutchinson's nephew, Louisiana State Sen. Jim Hendren, announced last week that he was leaving the Republican Party due to its embrace of Trump. Hendren said he is now an independent.

In a nine-minute video posted to his Twitter account, Hendren, 57, criticized Republican lawmakers for not doing more to stop the 74-year-old Trump, noting that the insurrection was "the final straw."

"I asked myself, what in the world would I tell my grandchildren when they asked one day what happened, and what did I do about it?" Hendren said in the video.

Saying he had "tremendous respect" for his nephew's announcement, Hutchinson told CNN's Dana Bash that Hendren's decision should serve as "a warning sign" for others in the Republican Party.

Still, Hutchinson said he had no plans to abandon the GOP himself: "Sure, we have personalities that come and go, but when we stick to our principles, that's a good future. And that's where I am. Right with the party, trying to build it for the future on a conservative basis."

Trump, who will speak at the Conservative Political Action Conference this coming weekend, reportedly plans to convey a message that he remains in charge of the party, despite his defeat. He has touted his enduring strength with rural voters, for example, and argued Republicans do better with him on the ticket.

A source told Axios that the former president also plans to encourage primaries of those who have crossed him in the path (such as the Republicans who voted in favor of his second impeachment).

One of the Republicans to vote in favor of Trump's impeachment is Rep. Adam Kinzinger, who has also expressed frustration with his party's refusal to denounce Trump amid his most incendiary behavior.

In an op-ed for The Washington Post while Trump was on trial in the Senate this month, Kinzinger urged his fellow GOP lawmakers to convict. Ultimately, seven Republican senators voted guilty, which was less than the 17 needed to convict but the most guilty votes ever against a president by his own party.

"If the GOP doesn't take a stand, the chaos of the past few months, and the past four years, could quickly return. The future of our party and our country depends on confronting what happened — so it doesn't happen again," Kinzinger wrote in his column.

In his Sunday interview with CNN, Hutchinson noted that Trump would continue to "have a voice, as former presidents do," but added that the GOP needed to chart its own path rather than relying solely on the former president.

"There's many voices in the party ... he's not going to define our future. We've got to define it for ourselves and that has to be based upon the principles that gave really us the strength in America," Hutchinson said. "We've got to respond to the people that like Trump. We've got to respond and identify with the issues that gave him the first election and gave him support throughout his presidency."

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