The latest poll out from Talk Business & Politics, Hendrix College and Impact Management Group give Gov. Asa Hutchinson a significant 11% jump to a 63% approval rating. The 11% jump in the polls can reasonably be credited to Hutchinson’s action to change HB 1228, which was generating negative national attention following a similar and unpopular piece of legislation in Indiana.
The poll was conducted April 2, the day Hutchinson called a press conference asking for controversial House Bill 1228, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, be withdrawn and amended amid concerns from Arkansas’ business community.
A scant 60-days prior to the April poll, Hutchinson held a 52% favorable rating, according to the poll takers records. The newest poll reflects a significant “bump” in Hutchinson’s leadership of the state. It rewards his navigating a very divisive issue and deadly public relations nightmare to a calmer, better solution.
Calling back a bill that has passed the Arkansas House and the state Senate for amendments, is not an easy task. Amending that controversial bill or passing other legislation to “water down” the approved bill, would be one way to ease the growing perception that within HB 1228 bill was a thinly disguised discrimination clause. This no doubt, the public perceived, generated some political savvy and direct personal courage from this first-term governor.
Hutchinson at the press meeting expressed ahead of the media that his youngest son, Seth Hutchinson, a labor organizer in Austin, Texas, had indeed signed an Internet petition asking for a veto of HB 1228. While gently exposing his own family members thinking to the growing debate, Hutchinson, who is as public relations savvy as most of any of the recent residents of the Governor’s Mansion, simply got ahead of the story.
And he stayed ahead of the story.
He and his staff stayed out in front and at times allowed proponents of the controversial bill enough room to satisfy the conservative core of the legislature. Hutchinson did so despite several attempts by his own party’s far right Conservatives to bring immense pressure for the governor to simply allow HB 1228 to become law.
When the world’s largest retailer in Bentonville, just a stone’s throw away from the Hutchinson clan homestead, disliked the bill, it was finally time to act.
Clearly, the bill passed the Arkansas House and Senate and there were enough votes to override a Governor’s veto, if Hutchinson had chosen that road to attempt to thwart the wording of HB 1228. He chose a higher road, one perhaps fraught with peril, but one that in the end, was clearly the correct path.
A favorable rating of 63% with the 90th General Assembly just days away from finally adjourning this week may be a high water mark for Hutchinson that could be hard to maintain. Such jumps in popularity are indeed a rarity.
Perhaps such positive actions as Hutchinson has clearly exhibited of late may be exceptional for an Arkansas governor. Maybe, just maybe, we are seeing a much better performance than expected from his new day in Arkansas governance. And maybe Hutchinson will prove to the state he is indeed worthy of such high polls and praise in the days ahead.
It also came as no surprise that “Governing,” a beltway-based publication dedicated to state and national politics, put the new Arkansas governor on its April magazine cover.
The story, a largely puff piece, was written and updated to include some of the HB 1228 controversy details. The magazine cover story perhaps should be required reading for those still unsettled on Arkansas’ newest governor.
The poll numbers, at least those from Talk Business & Politics, seem spot on for me. And I am sure our governor is liking the poll numbers as well.