The GOP establishment’s last gasps continue as they watch in horror while Donald Trump emerges as the frontrunner for the Republican nomination for president. Party elites have coalesced around Marco Rubio as the alternative, including Gov. Asa Hutchinson.
“We certainly hope that Arkansas will be the first state that [Rubio] outright wins,” Hutchinson told NPR in an interview today. Hutchinson joined dozens of other Republican elites in endorsing Rubio this week although the Florida senator has not come close to winning a single state thus far.
“Trump is a juggernaut to unravel at this point,” the governor said in an understatement. Hutchinson unconvincingly said that Rubio was just the man to finally topple Trump and (more convincingly) that Rubio can plausibly win in Arkansas next week. The governor added that Rubio would be a strong candidate in the general election.
NPR’s Robert Siegel gently pointed out that while GOP elites like Hutchinson are joining up to support Rubio, Republican voters are rejecting Rubio in favor of Trump.
“He’s getting better in terms of being more disciplined in his approach,” Hutchinson said of Trump. “But I’m not sure anybody is clear where he is philosophically.”
Hutchinson said that he would support the eventual Republican nominee but raised concerns about Trump’s various heresies:
I’m concerned about trade policy and I don’t believe that raising tariffs is the right direction to go. I think he would hurt us in Arkansas in terms of job creation. Whenever you look at promising positions that look totally undoable and unwise, it’s hard to figure where that goes in terms of leadership.
Asked whether the GOP had courted Trumpism by stoking the flames of the angry Tea Party base, the governor responded:
There’s some merit to that. The Republican base has been increasingly frustrated with progress in Washington. Everybody should be responding to that, but we have to respond to that with leadership and good temperament. We have to also, as leaders, educate the public as to what’s the right ideas. What’s the right thing we’re going to replace Obamacare with? What’s the right direction for our country in terms of security? These are serious discussions. They’re not salesmanship. It’s not a circus atmosphere. These are serious discussions about the direction of the free world.
Asked whether he thought Trump was an unserious circus act, the governor had, by his standards, sharp words:
I do not see his discussion of issues as serious. The words are frightening. How you’re goign ot build a wall. How you’re going to have Mexico pay for it. What does this mean? Let’s be realistic in our discussions and how we discuss these issues with the American people.
“The potential for [Trump] winning the nomination is more than just a possibility,” Hutchinson admitted. “Certainly his strength was underestimated. … We’ll see if it’s not too late to change.”
Full audio below: