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Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson To Deliver Message Of Unity At Convention

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Earlier I spoke with a Republican whose views of Donald Trump have been evolving.

For the past few months we've been checking in with Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas as he's gone from a supporter of Arkansas' own Mike Huckabee, later to a supporter of Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and a skeptic about Donald Trump to now being a Trump supporter. In fact Governor Hutchinson addresses the convention this evening. Welcome to the program.

ASA HUTCHINSON: I love the twisted path in which we live. So yes, it's good to be with you again.

SIEGEL: Well, now that the path has brought you to Cleveland, when you address this convention, in a nutshell, what's the message you're trying to convey?

HUTCHINSON: Well, the message is it's time for us to unite behind Donald Trump and Mike Pence and to win in November. And really this all boils down to two simple choices - Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. Without any doubt, I'm convinced that Hillary Clinton represents less individuality, flexibility for the states, a weaker national defense. And you know, for all those reasons, we ought to get behind Donald Trump.

SIEGEL: There have been speeches in this convention hall and also at events surrounding it at breakfasts in which people have talked about how important it is for the Republicans to win, for the Republicans to retain majorities in the Congress, how great Mike Pence is. And then the speaker doesn't mention Donald Trump. They don't even utter his name in some cases.

HUTCHINSON: Well, you notice I did mention Donald Trump.

SIEGEL: You did just now.

HUTCHINSON: And that's important. Obviously people feel much more comfortable with a ticket with Mike Pence being on there. He's a governor. He's a well-known person among conservative party - his credentials. In terms of Donald Trump, you know, I - without any doubt, it is important for him to have the Republican team behind him - going to be areas of disagreement that I have now. That's not going to change. But without any question, I am fully convinced he's going to lead us in the right direction.

SIEGEL: But given the kind of speech that I mentioned, this is an unusual relationship between a party and its nominee.

HUTCHINSON: It is. It is an unusual relationship. And we're taking it on step by step as we go. But I try to look at it in terms of my lifetime of fight for building the Republican Party and standing for its principles. And I want to make sure those principles are there to help shape the Trump presidency.

SIEGEL: Some wise political observers have pointed out that elections are about the future. They're not just about the past. Do you understand the future as led by President Donald Trump? Do you have a clear picture of what his promise of leadership is?

HUTCHINSON: Well, most importantly, you articulated the words that are important to his campaign - the past versus the future. And whenever you look at Hillary Clinton, she does not represent the future. So I think it's a huge contrast. And yes, absolutely Donald Trump is not quite as known in terms of all of his specifics, but...

SIEGEL: Or he's known to be in conflict with his own specifics of his proposals.

HUTCHINSON: But you have to say he is a fresh voice, a little bit untested. But the American people are so frustrated, that is why they responded to him during the campaign despite my good endorsement of others. They responded to this new voice.

SIEGEL: Just one thing, though - Paul Ryan told my colleague Steve Inskeep the other day, it's a binary choice. I'm supporting Donald Trump. He's better than Hillary Clinton. And Steve asked him, do you think he'd be a good president? Can you say, I think he's got the makings of a good president? And the speaker and soon-to-be chairman of this Convention just wouldn't say it. Are you confident the man has the makings of being a very good president of the United States?

HUTCHINSON: I think he has the makings of being a good president. Everybody under his circumstances is untested. And you have to look at his record in business. You have to look at the team that he's put around himself. That gives me confidence and hope. But without any question, that is the right choice for America in contrast to going down the path of Hillary Clinton and a third Obama administration.

SIEGEL: Governor Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas, thanks for talking with us today.

HUTCHINSON: Going to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.