EXETER, N.H. – GOP presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson said Tuesday he will keep up his long-shot presidential bid if only to warn fellow Republicans about the risks of re-nominating Donald Trump.
“I’ll make my case that Donald Trump is not the right leader for our party and our country,” Hutchinson told voters during a New Hampshire town hall sponsored by the USA Today Network.
While low poll numbers kept Hutchinson out of last month’s Republican debate in California, he said “let’s let New Hampshire vote first” to narrow the field; he promised local residents that “I’m going to be there.”
“It’s up to the voters of this state to determine what kind of leadership we want,” the former Arkansas governor said.
Trump, who holds massive polling leads over all the Republican presidential candidates, often mocks Hutchinson for support that is little more than 1 percent.
Speaking at the historic town hall in downtown Exeter, Hutchinson also addressed a number of policy issues animating the 2024 presidential race.
Taking questions from voters, the former congressman and head of the Drug Enforcement Administration pledged to crack down on illegal border crossings, promote education and treatment programs to fight opioid abuse, and go after drug cartels that specialize in fentanyl.
Asked about the future of Social Security and Medicare, Hutchinson proposed a plan that President Ronald Reagan used in the early 1980s: A bipartisan commission that can make hard choices about financing those programs in a less political atmosphere.
The GOP presidential candidate also said he wants the House of Representatives to change its rules to minimize the impact of a small group of people who only want to generate “chaos.” That happened last week when the votes of just eight House Republicans ousted GOP House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Hutchinson participated in the first Seacoast Media Group and USA Today Network 2024 Republican Presidential Candidate Town Hall Forum. Other Republican candidates will appear later in the week.
In his opening remarks, Hutchinson expressed support for Israel in its war against against Hamas and added that too many Republican candidates want to isolate the United States from the rest of the world.
Trump in particular “has proposed a ring around the United States,” Hutchinson said, hitting the former president for supporting economic tariffs.
He and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie are the only candidates who consistently criticize Trump for indictments in four criminal cases.
Another long-shot candidate, former congressman Will Hurd of Texas, said Monday he was dropping out of the race and endorsing former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
Hutchinson said he doesn’t plan to follow suit, and expected to be stay in the race through the New Hampshire primary in January.
“I’m going to pay the filing fee tomorrow,” he told USA Today.
Having failed to qualify for a Republican debate on Sept. 27, Hutchinson could also have trouble qualifying for the next debate Nov. 8 in Miami.
After missing the cut in California, Hutchinson said he planned to continue grinding it out in Iowa, New Hampshire, and early contest states, saying he wanted to continue his campaign “to bring out the best of America.”
“My goal is to increase my polling numbers to 4% in an early state before Thanksgiving,” Hutchinson said. “If that goal is met, then I remain competitive and in contention.”