Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announced his 2024 U.S. presidential candidacy on Sunday with a proclamation that set him apart from other current or potential Republican candidates: former President Donald Trump should step aside from the race.
In an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” Hutchinson urged Trump, who launched his candidacy in November, to drop out of the race after the former president was indicted in New York following an investigation into hush money payments to a porn star.
“I mean, first of all, the office is more important than any individual person. And so for the sake of the office of the presidency, I do think that’s too much of a sideshow and distraction and he needs to be able to concentrate on his due process and there is a presumption of innocence,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson, who was governor of the southern state from 2015 until early this year after previously serving in the U.S. House of Representatives, said he would make his formal announcement in Arkansas later this month but has decided to run.
“I have made a decision, and my decision is I’m going to run for president of the United States,” Hutchinson said. “I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts.”
Democratic President Joe Biden is expected to seek re-election next year.
Hutchinson, who has criticized Trump in the past, made it clear on Sunday he would not shrink, as a candidate, from confronting him. Trump remains popular among many Republicans despite becoming the first former U.S. president to be indicted on criminal charges.
“I think it’s a sad day for America that we have a former president that’s indicted,” Hutchinson said.
Asked whether Trump should step aside, Hutchinson said, “Well, he should, but at the same time, we know he’s not.”
A Trump political action committee, the Make America Great Again PAC, hit back at Hutchinson later on Sunday, tapping one of Trump’s favorite epitaphs for his Republican critics, calling him a RINO, or Republican In Name Only.
“Hutchinson’s only fans are in the liberal media,” it said.
The other Republicans who have launched campaigns for the party’s 2024 nomination include former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and activist investor Vivek Ramaswamy. Former Vice President Mike Pence and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis are considered as possible candidates, and both have come to Trump’s defense since the indictment on Thursday.