(LITTLE ROCK, Ark.) — Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, struggling to keep up with his competitors in early polling for the Republican nomination for president, said Tuesday on “GMA3” that support for President Donald Trump is “inflated.”
Asked about a polling average from FiveThirtyEight showing support for Hutchinson at 1% and support for Trump at a staggering 52%, Hutchinson said he’s in the race for the long haul and that his support will grow.
“It’s a long campaign we’re starting here. I expect to move up. And I also believe that Trump’s numbers are inflated now,” he said. “And I think that people are looking for new leadership and a new direction. America needs somebody that brings out the best of our country and doesn’t appeal to our worst instincts.”
Responding to Hutchinson’s comment, a spokesperson for Trump intentionally called him “Ada,” as the former president has done. He also included a swipe at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has not announced he is seeking the GOP nomination but is consistently polling as Trump’s closest competitor.
“Ada is polling at 1%, which means that Ron DeSantis is polling closer to the bottom of the field than he is to President Trump,” spokesperson Steven Cheung said in an email to ABC News.
Asked on “GMA3” if he would support Trump if he won the Republican nomination, Hutchinson hedged — and reminded how the Republican National Committee has said it will require candidates to take a loyalty pledge to support the party’s eventual nominee in order to participate in its debates.
“I don’t expect that he’ll be the nominee, and I do expect that I will be supporting the nominee,” he said. “I hope that it’s me. I want to be able to participate in the debate. And I expect one of those requirements is that you’ll have to support the nominee of the party. I always have done that.”
“I’m a strong Republican, but now’s not the right time for Donald Trump and his leadership in the future,” he added. “We need somebody that can actually win in November, that can bring in independents and suburban voters that can appeal to the best of our country and help bring us together.”
Hutchinson returns to Iowa this week from several voter-facing events as his campaign has indicated he’s going all in on the Hawkeye State.
Hutchinson finished his second term as governor of Arkansas earlier this year after decades of public service including three consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving in the George W. Bush administration as Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and later as the nation’s first Undersecretary of Homeland Security for Border Protection. He announced his intention to run for the GOP nomination for president in an exclusive interview last month on ABC’s “This Week” ahead of an official campaign launch in his hometown.
While he has not shied away from taking on Trump so far, Hutchinson has been careful not to isolate voters who have previously supported Trump either.
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