Asa Hutchinson backs McCain

February 21, 2008 2:58:45 PM PST
Supporting Mike Huckabee's presidential campaign is no longer a family affair for the Hutchinson clan. Former congressman Asa Hutchinson, whose brother and former U.S.

Sen. Tim Hutchinson is a top Huckabee supporter, said Thursday he's no longer backing Huckabee's presidential campaign and endorsed presumptive GOP nominee John McCain.

Hutchinson said he endorsed McCain because it's virtually impossible for Huckabee to gain the 1,191 delegates needed to clinch the Republican nomination. Huckabee's campaign had announced in November that the Hutchinson brothers were among high profile Arkansas Republicans backing the former governor's bid.

"I was delighted to support Gov. Huckabee whenever there was a possibility he could garner the delegates necessary to win," Hutchinson told The Associated Press Thursday morning. "It's not mathematically possible, so once that mathematical possibility expired I indicated to Sen. McCain I'd be willing to support him and do what I can to help bring our party together to win in November."

Overall, McCain has 957 delegates and Huckabee has 254.

Huckabee's campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In a news release, McCain praised Hutchinson for his work in Arkansas and at the federal level.

"He is a true public servant and I am proud to have his support," McCain said Hutchinson, a former undersecretary of the federal Homeland Security department, was the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2006 and lost to Democrat Mike Beebe. Hutchinson served in Congress from 1997 to 2001. He headed up the Drug Enforcement Administration for two years before going to Homeland Security in 2003.

Hutchinson, who runs a Little Rock consulting firm and is a partner for Venable LLP, a Washington law firm, gave $1,000 to Huckabee's presidential campaign last year. Hutchinson has also been chairing a Republican party committee that is helping the GOP prepare for the 2010 elections and researching the campaign finances of state Democratic officeholders.

Hutchinson said he told Huckabee of his decision before announcing the endorsement Thursday. Hutchinson said it's up to Huckabee whether he should leave the presidential race.

Huckabee has said he's staying in the race until either he or McCain reaches the number of delegates needed to win the nomination.

"I believe that Mike should have a major role in the convention and he'll continue to be a great national voice for us," Hutchinson said. "There hasn't been any change in my high regard for Mike and his leadership. It's simply a matter of reality."

Huckabee has long tried to shake off rumors that he and the Hutchinson family don't get along. The former governor campaigned throughout the state in 2006 for Hutchinson's failed gubernatorial bid. McCain also campaigned in Arkansas on behalf of Hutchinson in 2006, as did former Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani The Hutchinson family, however, has had split loyalties in the presidential race. Tim Hutchinson has been one of Huckabee's most outspoken supporters, while his ex-wife, state Rep. Donna Hutchinson, campaigned for rival Mitt Romney while Romney was still in the race. Tim Hutchinson's son, Jeremy, had backed Fred Thompson's unsuccessful bid for the Republican nomination before the Tennessee senator dropped out of the race.

"I would say that the discussions at Hutchinson family events are always interesting," Asa Hutchinson said.