Asa Hutchinson’s gubernatorial bid is getting the support of some national Republican figures. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie – who is the subject of speculation over a possible 2016 Presidential bid – and 2012’s GOP nominee Mitt Romney are visiting the state to host fundraisers next month.
Political scientist Hal Bass of Ouachita Baptist University says their visits might be more about helping their own political ambitions than Hutchinson’s.
“Endorsements may well be designed to enhance the reputation of the endorser. In other words, Christie can introduce himself to Arkansas Republican voters and for that matter state and local party elites in anticipation of a possible 2016 run for the nomination. Romney could either gear up for another campaign run or try to establish himself as a king-maker for the future,” said Bass.
Bass contends Romney and Christie don't carry the weight of other high-profile endorsers such as Bill Clinton. Clinton's stature looms large in comparison not just in Arkansas but nationwide. But Bass says Christie and Romney's trip does help to bolster the visibility of the Republican brand in Arkansas.
“These visits I think can be understood in addition as party building opportunities, party building exercises to draw attention to the Republican campaign and the Republican Party in the state,” said Bass.
Romney will visit Jonesboro on August 20th. Christie will be speaking in northwest Arkansas and Little Rock on August 27th.
Hutchinson faces Democrat Mike Ross, Green Joshua Drake, and Libertarian Frank Gilbert.