9/10/22 Gov. Asa Hutchinson and journalist Rick Folbaum on the midterms, Trump, and key voter issues

Just the Facts: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and journalist Rick Folbaum on the midterms, Trump, and key...
Just the Facts: Gov. Asa Hutchinson and journalist Rick Folbaum on the midterms, Trump, and key voter issues(DC Bureau)
Published: Sep. 10, 2022 at 7:12 PM PDT
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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) - Washington, DC – Gray Television, Inc. (“Gray”) (NYSE: GTN) premieres a new series of midterm election specials called “Election 2022 Just the Facts” today, Saturday, September 10, 2022. The 30-minute program will highlight and break down the headlines of key races in the competitive markets served by Gray’s stations and provide analysis on key midterm races. “Election 2022 Just the Facts” will also feature interviews with top newsmakers, fact-checking segments and dispatches from Gray Television reporters on the ground in battleground states. The 10-episode series, hosted by White House correspondent and senior national editor Jon Decker, will air weekly through November 13.

“Our goal is to help inform voters as they prepare to head to the polls in what is arguably one of the most important midterm election years in recent history,” says Lisa Allen, Vice President and General Manager of Washington Operations for Gray Television.

This weekend’s show features an interview with Governor Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark.) and a report from CBS46/WGCL-TV Atlanta anchor Rick Folbaum on the U.S. Senate race in Georgia. As part of Gray Television’s partnership with Poynter, the show will also feature a fact-checking segment with PolitiFact.

Governor Asa Hutchinson discusses the Trump factor, what he thinks the GOP needs to do to win the House and the Senate, and the impact of recent abortion legislation on the elections.

When asked about former President Donald Trump’s impact on GOP candidates, Hutchinson said: “We can’t get into a sideshow, we can’t get into the past, and all the chaos that’s created around one particular person, which is Donald Trump.”

“We are not guaranteed a win on the Senate side, and that’s not necessarily a reflection of the quality of the candidates in terms of who they are. But I think it is important that we’re not going to win unless that candidate focuses on the issue. I think the risk is that we get sidetracked. There’s sideshows. Mar-a-Lago, those issues,” said Hutchinson.

On Republican gubernatorial nominees who subscribe to Trumps’ election fraud views, Hutchinson tells Decker: “First of all, there wasn’t massive fraud that was actionable, that changed the election this last cycle. There’s always challenges that we do address … But anytime you’re focusing on the last election, you’re losing. And that’s a mistake that the GOP does not want to make.”

On the abortion debate, Hutchinson said: “We don’t know for sure the full outcome in November, but I would say that Roe versus Wade, and the Dobbs case that reversed it, gave the authority back to the state. So I think this is a much greater issue in terms of impact on state races, governors and legislature races, versus the Senate or the House.”

Excerpts are below.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson Highlights

On GOP House and Senate midterm chances

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

We have the greatest likelihood of winning the House. The Senate is still up for grabs. I’m still hopeful that we can win the Senate, but it’s going to be much closer and a little bit more challenging on the Senate side, and for various reasons. This is a nationalized election as the Senate usually is. And so to what happens between now and Election Day will make a big difference on the outcome in the Senate.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

I’m confident that we will have a takeover, the GOP in the House, which is good news. I think the Senate is up in the air and it will be decided based upon what happens with the candidates the next 60 days.

Jon Decker

Do you fear a repeat of what happened in 2010 with those poor types of candidates representing Republicans happening again in this midterm election?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

I think it is important that we’re not going to win unless that candidate focuses on the issue. I think the risk is that we get sidetracked. There’s sideshows. Mar-a-Lago, those issues. We’re going to talk about the 2020 election and debate that. If that’s the case, I don’t believe that’s a winning message. And so our candidates have to talk about the future and where you’re taking this country, what we’re going to do about inflation, energy policy, border security, what you’re going to do about violence. These are the issues that people care about, and it’s going to move voters the next 60 days.

On the Trump factor

Jon Decker

He’s had an impact already in terms of the midterms, in terms of his endorsing various candidates. Do you think that’s been a net positive for Republicans?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

Well, I saw where he just endorsed my friend, Mike DeWine, in Ohio, who’s a mainstream candidate. And obviously, he sees him as a winner. He’s going to win, he’s run a good campaign, and he thinks the 2020 election was legitimate. And so I don’t believe that that endorsement makes all the difference. There’s pragmatic choices that former President Trump is making. What is important is how you handle it. Glenn Youngkin did a great job in Virginia in taking the endorsement, but not wrapping himself around the Donald Trump controversies. He focused on the issues of concern to Virginia. That’s what our candidates have to do. We can’t get into a sideshow, we can’t get into the past, and all the chaos that’s created around one particular person, which is Donald Trump.

Jon Decker

Does the former president take Republicans, in your view, away from those issues, like inflation, like crime, like immigration?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

Well, he could suck the energy out of a lot of campaigns if it’s not handled well. And so there’s a risk there, but candidates can say, look, we didn’t have inflation under Donald Trump. We didn’t have border security issues under Donald Trump. And then move on, and talk about the challenge that we have under the Biden administration and say this is what we’ve got to do now, and this election is critically important. And so you’ve got to not have Donald Trump as a central piece of your campaign, and that’s how you win elections on the same issues that I just discussed.

On President Joe Biden

Jon Decker

He (President Biden) had a recent primetime speech in Philadelphia and he said, “Donald Trump and MAGA Republicans represent an extremism that threatens the very republic.”

Democrats, Joe Biden, have had a little bit of momentum in recent weeks with some legislative victories. The president’s poll numbers have ticked up just a bit. Do you think he unnecessarily, in your view, poked the bear with that speech?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

I do. It could have been a speech that was designed for his left wing base, to make them happy, but in terms of independent voters, it didn’t move them. In terms of Republicans, it energized them.

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

President Biden has, with the infrastructure bill that was passed, the CHIPS Act bill, these are bills that had some bipartisan support, but anytime you get legislation that’s significant passed, it is something he can talk about, and Democrats can talk about. But what they’re not speaking about, and they’re totally blind to it, is a challenge that we have on a porous border. It’s the challenges that we have with energy policy that he’s given short-term fixes to, but not a long-term approach, which is critical. And so there’s plenty for Republicans to campaign on that can win. There’s plenty of things that the people are concerned about that this president has not addressed yet.

On the abortion debate

Jon Decker

The Supreme Court decision which overturned Roe versus Wade, we saw that vote on that abortion referendum in Kansas. Were you surprised by the outcome of that vote, and do you think that this has indeed energized Democrats ahead of the midterms?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

I was surprised by the vote in Kansas, but that was the expression of the will of the people, and those that turned out. In terms of the abortion issue and the reversal of Roe versus Wade, I think, to a certain extent, it energizes both sides. We don’t know for sure the full outcome in November, but I would say that Roe versus Wade, and the Dobbs case that reversed it, gave the authority back to the state. So I think this is a much greater issue in terms of impact on state races, governors and legislature races, versus the Senate or the House. And so we’ll wait and see, but I don’t see that as a differential, is going to make the deciding difference in November.

On the Pennsylvania Senate Race

Jon Decker

Dr. Oz. recently moved to Pennsylvania just two years ago, and his opponent, the Lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, is making a lot of that, and making this a carpetbagger type of issue. Do you think that’s an effective argument?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

Well, not really. Whenever you look at it, every state’s different, but Hillary Clinton, who used to be the first lady of Arkansas, won the United States Senate race in New York. And so you have a lot of flexibility whenever it comes to the Senate. So it’s how the people handle it, react to it, and how the candidates handle it. What’s important there, regardless of the background, Mehmet Oz is very close, and he’s got 60 days left. He’s going to have a debate. And so there’s a great opportunity to focus on the issues, to win the votes.

On Governors races

Jon Decker

You’re the former chair of the National Governors Association… Is there sort of a wave that you see happening as it relates to governor’s races?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

Right now, Republicans have a significant majority of the gubernatorial seats across the country. I expect that to be strong this year, maybe to grow some this year, because we have some very good gubernatorial candidates. We have a track record. For example, Republicans by and large kept their economy open. We kept the schools open. And we went against that trend in blue states and what was being preached nationally, perhaps by the unions. And so there’s something to run on there for Republicans saying, there’s a real difference in people’s lives based simply upon how we handled the pandemic, and the freedom that people had to leave their lives during that time.

Jon Decker

Does it make it difficult for the nominees of Republicans, for those governorships, if they subscribe to the former president’s view that there was this massive fraud in the last presidential election?

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R-Ark)

Well, first of all, there wasn’t massive fraud that was actionable, that changed the election this last cycle. There’s always challenges that we do address through legislation to make our elections more secure. But anytime you’re focusing on the last election, you’re losing. And that’s a mistake that the GOP does not want to make. It might energize a small percent of the purists that are out there that are loyalists to Trump, and that’s it. But you’re not going to win in November without going to the independents, that you’re going to be able to attract votes to your column, and that you’re a broad candidate that can address a broad range of issues and not just an angry candidate.

Please check local listings for air times.

About Jon Decker:

Jon Decker is Gray Television’s White House correspondent and senior national editor. Decker is a former member of the board of the White House Correspondents’ Association. Decker serves on the faculty of Georgetown University and the UCLA School of Law where he is an adjunct professor. He is also a media fellow at the McCain Institute.

About Gray Television:

Gray Television, Inc. is a multimedia company headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia. Gray is the nation’s largest owner of top-rated local television stations and digital assets in the United States. Its television stations serve 113 television markets that collectively reach approximately 36 percent of US television households. This portfolio includes 80 markets with the top-rated television station and 100 markets with the first and/or second highest rated television station. It also owns video program companies Raycom Sports, Tupelo Media Group, and PowerNation Studios. For more information, please visit www.gray.tv.

For media inquiries please contact:

Virginia Coyne

graytvmedia@gmail.com

‪(202) 495-1640

Lisa Allen, Vice President and General Manager, Washington Operations, Gray TV

lisa.allen@gray.tv

202-713-6300