Asa Hutchinson Hasn't Changed, but Arkansas Has (AP Analysis)

by Andrew DeMillo, The Associated Press  on Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013 5:33 pm  

Asa Hutchinson isn't offering many clues on what he'll run on when he makes his bid official, but a glance at his 2006 campaign provides some clue about his policy ideas — and potential lines of attack against him. (Photo by University of Arkansas)

Hutchinson enters the race as a favorite for his party's nomination, especially with his roots in Republican-heavy northwest Arkansas. He's built up goodwill among the party's faithful by supporting candidates during the 2012 races.

His work on a National Rifle Association initiative to study school safety and push for armed guards in schools allows him to tout his pro-gun credentials in a state where Democrats and Republicans alike boast of their gun collections in political ads.

Hutchinson, however, still faces a tough road ahead in his run. Encouraged by McDaniel's woes and recent electoral gains, several Republicans are still mulling a bid for the state's top office. They include Curtis Coleman, the North Little Rock businessman who filed papers last week to explore a gubernatorial bid.

Despite the personal problems, McDaniel still enjoys a head start in organization and fundraising over Hutchinson. Since launching his bid last June, McDaniel has raised more than $1 million and campaign finance reports to be filed in the coming days will show how he fared before his scandal broke last year.

With a network of support from his past bids and Republicans nationally eyeing the race as a chance to turn Arkansas completely red, Hutchinson is shrugging off the notion that he'll start at a disadvantage when it comes to campaign cash.

"The money is going to be there. It's such an important race," he said. "I don't anticipate a challenge in catching up on the fundraising side."

Hutchinson isn't offering many clues on what he'll run on when he makes his bid official, but a glance at his 2006 campaign provides some clue about his policy ideas — and potential lines of attack against him.

In his unsuccessful bid against Democrat Mike Beebe, Hutchinson sounded many of the same anti-tax themes that Republicans are sounding as they prepare to take control of the state Legislature. He railed against the state's tax structure as "shockingly not competitive" and called for reforms to the state's income tax code.

"We cannot tax ourselves into prosperity and we cannot spend ourselves into prosperity," Hutchinson said.

But Hutchinson stumbled on the issue of taxes early in his campaign, initially saying that a cut in the state's grocery tax wasn't part of his agenda. He later called for a complete elimination of the tax, as opposed to the phased-out cut that Beebe ran on. Beebe regularly accused Hutchinson of flip-flopping on the tax issue during the campaign.

Hutchinson also faced criticism from Democrats for his role as one of the House prosecutors in the impeachment trial against former President Bill Clinton, a role he didn't mention often on the campaign trail.

"I think the people of Arkansas understand what I did was out of conviction that I tried to help our country in a difficult time," he said in 2006. "Once that's over, they're not interested in it."

 

 

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