Rubio Picks Up Arkansas Governor's Endorsement, Cruz To Return

Feb 22, 2016

File photo of Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaking at the Capitol in January 2015.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR News

Fresh off a campaign stop in Little Rock, Marco Rubio has secured the support of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. The Republican governor made his endorsement on Monday with little fanfare following Rubio’s 2,000 strong rally on Sunday evening.

In a written statement, Rubio's campaign announced the endorsement from Hutchinson, who was elected two years ago as governor. Hutchinson previously backed former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee who exited the race after the Iowa caucus.

"The more I’ve watched this election unfold, the more I’ve come to see that Marco Rubio is the only candidate who can unite our nation the way Ronald Reagan once did," said Governor Hutchinson. "Not only is Marco uniquely capable of rallying Americans behind a conservative vision for the future, but he also fully understands what it takes to keep us safe in this dangerous world. I am endorsing Marco Rubio for president today because we need his optimism and strength in the White House."

The U.S. Senator from Florida also has endorsements from every declared congressman from the state and most legislative leaders. U.S. Senator Tom Cotton has not made an endorsement this primary season.

State Senator Bart Hester chairs Rubio’s Arkansas campaign. He said the candidate had been reaching out for the governor’s support.

“He walked off the stage in South Carolina and within 10 minutes called our governor and told him how much our endorsement would mean to him. I know that because I heard immediately from the governor saying, ‘you’ll never guess who just called,’” said Hester.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) speaking Sunday in Little Rock.
Credit Michael Hibblen / KUAR

He said Rubio and Hutchinson have exchanged several phone calls since Saturday’s South Carolina primary where Rubio narrowly edged out Ted Cruz for second place. Donald Trump won the state. He drew 7-9 thousand in Little Rock the day after the Iowa caucus.

Rubio will have to outperform Trump and Cruz in Arkansas too. The U.S. Senator from Texas led the pack in an Arkansas poll conducted earlier this month. The Cruz campaign announced this week he will make his third swing through Arkansas this weekend.

State Representative Bob Ballinger heads the Cruz team in Arkansas and said it’s expected to be another multi-stop trip to Arkansas.

“We should have an opportunity for him to meet some folks in northwest Arkansas and also central Arkansas during that day,” said Ballinger.

Ballinger said specific details from the Cruz campaign are still being determined.

KUAR reached out to Governor Hutchinson’s office for this story, but did not hear back.