When asked about Ms. Rutledge’s criticism, Ms. Sanders ignored her rival and trumpeted her own record-breaking early fundraising. “I don’t take anything for granted,” she said via text message.
Should Ms. Sanders emerge as the Republican standard-bearer, she could face a third-party opponent from far outside of pro-Trump orbit. State Senator Jim Hendren, who founded the G.O.P. After the January 6 riot, Davy Carter, a former State House spokesman, is considering both offers.
In separate interviews, they said they would not compete with each other in the same race. “I am convinced that Trump and Trumpism are a slowly sinking ship even in Arkansas,” said Carter, spokesman who helped drive Medicaid’s expansion. He said that a successful challenge to Trumpism would only come if Liberals, moderates and anti-Trump Republicans “organize on a track”.
When asked who he would ultimately have back in the governor’s race, Hutchinson said, “I expect to support the Republican candidate.”
But he admitted that he had spoken extensively with his nephew, Mr Hendren, and said that they share “the same frustrations” about the party, except that Mr Hutchinson is determined to fight out of the tent. He gave Mrs. Sanders barely disguised advice and said, “Leadership is about bringing people with you and not giving in to a lie.”
The governor and most observers are deeply skeptical that an independent could win nationwide. In fact, more than a year and a half before Mrs. Sanders took office, many insiders debated what kind of governor she would be.
Would she re-use Mr. Trump’s anti-media and complaint-oriented policies to stay in national headlines and perhaps promote her own presidential election, or would she reflect her father’s more pragmatic approach to the office? While now known for his own Fox News and social media profile, Mr. Huckabee ruled the political center and even aroused the ire of the far right, whom he described as “Shiite Conservatives.”