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Arkansas Governor On State Of GOP Race Without Marco Rubio


The last time we heard from Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson on the program - it was two weeks ago - he had supported the former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee for president. Huckabee was out of the race, and he switched his support to Marco Rubio. Gov. Hutchinson, welcome back.

ASA HUTCHINSON: Good to be with you.

SIEGEL: Sen. Rubio has dropped out of the presidential campaign. Where does that leave you?

HUTCHINSON: Well, it leaves me without a candidate right now. I was delighted to support Marco Rubio. He did not do as well as he needed to do in Florida. He made the right decision for the party and for himself by suspending his campaign. So I have three choices - Donald Trump, John Kasich or Ted Cruz.

SIEGEL: Well, where are you leaning?

HUTCHINSON: Well, I'm still watching. I think there's a number of things that I'm interested in. And very importantly, who's the best person to win in November? Secondly, who can bring our party together? And Donald Trump has a lot of momentum after last night, but he has to show that he can unify the party and he can appeal to all the elements of the party and win in November.

SIEGEL: When we spoke last, though, you raised concerns about Mr. Trump's trade policy, its impact on jobs in Arkansas. You spoke of temperament, circus atmosphere in the primary, salesmanship in place of serious discussions. Have your concerns about Mr. Trump diminished? Have they grown larger? Have they stayed the same?

HUTCHINSON: Those concerns have not diminished (laughter). I have those concerns, but there is an opportunity. And I know that he is trying to demonstrate that he is a presidential character, that he can unify the party. I recognize that, you know, my policies and my view of government is probably more accurately reflected by others in the race.

But at the same time, I recognize that it's a difficult path to victory for the candidates. We could go into the convention with none of the candidates having a majority or a sufficient number of delegates. And so...

SIEGEL: And in that case, would there be anything wrong with having an open convention and going to a second ballot and having any one of those three or none of those three be nominated?

HUTCHINSON: Well, not only is there nothing wrong with it, but that's what our process is. Now, it will meet with some objections because some people have a view that if you go in there with the plurality of delegates then you're automatically entitled to the nomination, but that's not what the rules provide. Somehow, you've got to convert that 42 percent or whatever it is of the delegates you have into a majority, and that's when it gets interesting. And so this process has got to unfold, and I'm going to be watching it carefully.

SIEGEL: You have spoken of the need for Mr. Trump to show that he is capable of presidential leadership. Has he shown you that at his recent rallies over the past couple of weeks?

HUTCHINSON: No. I'm concerned. Now, while it's an example of where you learn as you go through this - but certainly Donald Trump had a right to speak at his rallies. The protesters were disruptive, but the question is, how was his response? Does it bring people together? Does it diminish division in our country, or does it increase it? And obviously, we need a president that can lead in that fashion.

And not only that. We need someone that can accomplish that goal in November because if we're going to win in November, whoever our nominee has to have every branch of the party, from the evangelicals to the establishment, from the tea party to the traditional Republicans. That's what he's got to show - that he can bring those people together.

SIEGEL: Gov. Hutchinson, thank you very much for talking with us today.

HUTCHINSON: Great to be with you.

SIEGEL: That's Asa Hutchinson, a Republican governor of Arkansas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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