Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson says former Pres. Trump cannot define the Republican Party, adding that “it’s hard to play the middle road on this.”
“Trump bears a great deal of responsibility, key responsibility for what happened at our nation’s Capitol on January 6.” pic.twitter.com/YUxGBvwYZu
— CNN (@CNN) February 19, 2021
Governor Hutchinson isn’t likely to be getting an invite to Mar-a-Lago anytime soon.
In one of his frequent national TV appearances, the governor last night on CNN squarely blamed Donald Trump for the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and said Trump should not define the future of the Republican Party.
The governor was asked about Trump’s recent slam of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Lindsey Graham’s defense of Trump as indispensable to Republican election success. Hutchinson responded: “I couldn’t disagree more with what Lindsey Graham said.”
He said of Trump: “He has a huge following. But he cannot define us for the future. We have to define ourselves based upon our principles and what has brought us such success in the past and what the electorate has responded to.”
Hutchinson’s response, in its way, echoed what he said yesterday about his nephew, Sen. Jim Hendren, who announced the abandonment of the Republican Party to become an independent. Hendren said the final straw was Trump’s encouragement of the Jan. 6 riot by baseless denial of the election outcome. Hutchinson said he understood Hendren’s thinking, but thought Republican principles remained the best alternative for conservatives.
Hutchinson said on CNN that there must be an outreach to Trump supporters — “a huge part of the Republican base” — and an effort must be made to “identify with their issues.” But he said the party could not be defined by one person.
He was asked about former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley, who has flip-flopped on Trump, first saying Trump would be judged harshly and then trying to make up with him. Trump reportedly spurned a meeting with her.
It’s hard to play the middle of the road on this. In an ideal world, you could state the truth, which is that former President Trump bears a great deal of responsibility — key responsibility — for what happened at our nation’s capitol on Jan. 6. That is the truth. We ought to be able to say that. At the same time, we don’t have to ignore him for the future. But it is going to be difficult. People are going to have to take a side on this. They’re going to have to determine whether Trump is going to dictate the future of the party or whether our principles and many other leaders are going to shape the future of our party. You’ve got to make that decision. We should not be defined by one person, particularly a person who’s made such an egregious mistake as we saw happened on Jan. 6.
In Arkansas, Hutchinson joins his nephew in a tiny number from their end of the political spectrum willing to say such things. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Leslie Rutledge and Tim Griffin, to name three statewide candidates, have staked out the other side. Loudly.
Hutchinson has said before that Trump bore responsibility for the riot, though he opposed conviction at the impeachment trial. He said earlier than many Republicans that Joe Biden had won the 2020 election.