Little Rock, Ark. ( Associated Press) — Based on a barrage of television commercials and mailers for Tuesday’s primary election in Arkansas, it’s clear who are the most influential Republicans in the state.
Tom Cotton making the case For fellow Sen. John Boozman, talking about his conservative truth, while the two-time senator takes on challenges from the right. Image of Donald Trump appears in Boozeman’s commercials And for Sarah Sanderswho served as the former president’s White House press secretary and is now running for governor, Sanders, whose support is almost as sought as Trump’s, is helping make the closing argument for Boozeman in a TV ad.
But the state’s top elected Republican, Governor Asa Hutchinson, is conspicuously missing from the ads and campaign trail, entering the final stages of his term with strong approval ratings and an elevated national profile. Hutchinson’s advisers say that’s because he’s focused on helping more Republicans nationally as he looks to the future — which could include a White House bid.,
But it is also a sign of how much the party Hutchinson spent decades building has shifted to the right and how much state politics has become nationalised. In competitive primaries where Republicans are trying to outdo each other, even a state like Hutchinson doesn’t compete as much as the longtime GOP figure, especially if it’s not known for being too rigid. Is.
“There are other, attractive wagons for them to stop their horses,” said Janine Parry, a political science professor at the University of Arkansas.
And Hutchinson — who tweets Bible verses every Sunday morning and is often surrounded by charts and graphs at news conferences — is anything but fascinating.
Sanders, widely favored to win the Republican nomination, is endorsed by Hutchinson But seldom mention the governor. When asked how she would govern differently from Hutchinson, Sanders says she will focus on her approach.
“I’m pretty much my own person. I don’t like to compare myself to anyone,” said Sanders, whose father served as governor for 10 years. “I’m constantly asked, ‘Are you a fan of your own? Will you become more like a father?’ or ‘Will you be like Trump?’ I’m going to be Sarah Sanders.”
Sanders has refrained from criticizing Hutchinson publicly, even when his former boss labeled the outgoing governor “Rino” — a Republican in name only — for his decision to veto an anti-transgender law. Sanders said he would have signed off on the measure that bans gender affirmation treatment for transgender youth. She follows through on a promise to eliminate state personal income tax after a series of deductions Hutchinson has championed over the years. When Hutchinson backed Sanders in November, he praised his work to cut taxes.
Sanders first faces a long-shot challenge in the primary from talk radio host and podcaster Doc Washburn, who points to Hutchinson’s support for Sanders as a disqualifying factor. Along with nuclear engineer and ordained minister Chris Jones, five Democrats are seeking the party’s nomination for office. Foremost.
Sanders pitches in to help the soft-spoken Boozman adopt a more aggressive tone in line with the scorched-earth political climate.
“I know John Boozman as the champion of President Trump’s America First agenda,” Sanders says in a TV ad for the senator.
A Challenger Super Pac, Former NFL Player Jake Baquet, running ads questioning Boozman’s conservative credentials. Other challengers to Boozman include conservative activist Jan Morgan. and Pastor Heather Loftis. Three Democrats – Natalie James, Jack Foster and Dan Whitfield – are seeking the party’s nomination for Boozman’s seat.
Hutchinson, who declined to be interviewed for this story, has endorsed several legislative candidates in Arkansas and given money through his Political Action Committee, but advisers say his focus has been more on the national stage. Hutchinson has been donating to candidates elsewhere.
“It’s a slight shift in focus on the political front as he looks to the future and says, ‘How do I help candidates across the country?’,” said John Gilmore, Hutchinson’s chief political strategist.
Hutchinson Raises His Profile as President of the National Governors Association and become a frequent guest on Sunday talk shows, often parting ways with Trump and warned Republicans to look ahead Instead of fixing on the 2020 election. He said his decision on the 2024 presidential bid would not be affected by Trump joining the race.
He has also fought with his party’s right side against Republicans who oppose rape and incest exceptions. Against those banning abortion and restricting businesses From the need for COVID-19 vaccination.
Political observers say Hutchinson’s distance from Trump has given him wide appeal among independents and some Democrats, helping to keep his approval numbers strong. Sanders has reached similar numbers with a more polarizing approach.
“They built their houses very differently,” said Republican strategist Robert Koon.