photo of campus republicans and Asa Hutchinson

Photo by James Kelly

Republican presidential longshot Asa Hutchinson visits PSU

James Kelly


Staff Writer


When Arkansas Governor and longshot Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson entered the HUB Hage Room, he shook hands with every person in the audience. 12 people – all of them students, most of them first-time voters – attended last week’s town hall-style event. Hutchinson introduced himself, had no volunteers, and brought only one member of his staff. To collect emails for the campaign, Hutchinson borrowed a student’s notebook.

Asa holding note book paper with a maximum of 12 emails on it
Photo by James Kelly

PSU Republicans hosted the event, which is part of a series President Ethan Dupuis hopes will introduce people to the club. Hutchinson is the first presidential candidate PSU Republicans have hosted in 2023, but they traveled to see former President Donald Trump and Senator Tim Scott.

Wonky and mostly without narrative, Hutchinson’s stump speech was in contrast to the more sensational Republican frontrunners. “I like his direct approach,” Dupuis said. “He’s somebody… that knows exactly what needs to be done.” PSU Republicans Secretary Thomas Emberg agreed. “Other presidents in the past – Trump and Biden, especially – their character has gotten in the way of their presidency. And [Hutchinson] seems like a guy whose character would not get in the way,” he said. “He would not be in a lot of scandals, and he would not be tweeting about his diet coke button. He’s a no B.S. type of guy who just wants to get the job done.”

Fielding questions on the economy, gun violence, foreign policy, and immigration, Hutchinson often referenced his experience with the Department of Homeland Security and as head of the Drug Enforcement Agency under President George W. Bush. Hutchinson frames himself as a pragmatist, including on border policy. “I want to secure the border, but immigrants are still important to our country. And so I want to partner with Governor Sununu,” Hutchinson said, pitching his proposal for state-based visas, which he pointed to as an idea unique to his campaign.

Hutchinson criticized other candidates’ platforms on border policy, including Vivek Ramaswamy, Ron DeSantis, and Nikki Haley, who support military action against Mexican drug cartels. “You can’t, as another candidate proposed, go in and bomb the cartels,” Hutchinson said. “That’s bombing and invading a friendly nation. Y’all are smarter than that.” 

Hutchinson frequently targeted Ramaswamy – who is polling in a distant fourth place nationally – and called his plan for a wall on the northern border impractical. “Stop being silly,” he said. “You have to look at who has realistic proposals. I say we can cut our non-defense workforce by 10%. Vivek Ramaswamy says we ought to cut it by 75%.” Hutchinson laughed and took another jab. “[Ramaswamy] also wants to increase the voting age to 25. That’s the silliest idea around,” he said. 

Hutchinson nonetheless embraced mainstream conservative ideas, including tax cuts, stricter welfare restrictions, and gun rights. When asked a question about the mass shooting in Lewiston, Hutchinson rejected calls for gun control. “I’m opposed to additional restrictions on citizens having firearms,” he said, making a disjointed reference to the conflict in Gaza as an example. “[Israelis] did not have access to firearms. And if I’m sitting there as a dad or as a husband, if you give me a gun, I want to protect my family,” Hutchinson said. “I support Israel. The United States should always be on the side of the oppressed.” The attack “emphasized the need to have access” to firearms, Hutchinson said. Instead, Hutchinson would focus his efforts on mental health, specifically by expanding access to treatment through Medicaid and school counselors. 

Hutchinson is among a crowded candidate field that has so far been dominated by Trump, who is averaging 57.1% in national polls and 45.3% in New Hampshire, according to FiveThirtyEight. Hutchinson, who was the first candidate to fail to qualify for a Republican Party debate after making the first, is averaging only 0.5% nationally and in NH. Still, Hutchinson sees a path forward through NH. “We’ve got to survive long enough in the campaign so that we can give New Hampshire a chance to make a decision,” he said. Hutchinson hopes growing legal trouble for Trump will open an avenue for a different Republican to succeed. “Beware the Ides of March,” Hutchinson said, “because March is when the trials start for President Trump.”

The date for the New Hampshire Republican Primary has not yet been set, but it will likely be held on January 23, 2024. Despite his low numbers in the polls, Hutchinson says he plans on sticking around until the primary. “That’s New Hampshire’s job: to vet candidates and get to know them,” he said.