▶ Watch Video: Asa Hutchinson to formally launch 2024 presidential campaign Wednesday

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson formally launched his long-shot bid for the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nomination on Wednesday, making the case that his “mettle has been tested” and he’s ready to take on President Biden.

The former governor, congressman, administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and border security official had previously said he would run for president, and formally launched his campaign with a speech in Bentonville, Arkansas, his birthplace. 

“Today, I am announcing that I am a candidate for president of the United States,” Hutchinson told supporters. “In this campaign for president, I stand alone in terms of my experience, my record and leadership. From Congress to the DEA to Homeland Security, I have served our country in times of crisis. As governor of Arkansas, we cut taxes and created record surpluses. We increased pay for teachers. We reduced regulations; recruited industry, and the private sector grew by over 100,000 jobs. My mettle has been tested.”

Hutchinson, 72, focused his remarks on his and Mr. Biden’s records, rather than taking aim at potential and declared GOP candidates. His campaign faces a steep uphill climb given Republican voters’ continued support for former President Donald Trump. Hutchinson did not mention Trump in his remarks on Wednesday, but has been one of the few Republicans willing to criticize the former president, who enjoys a large lead in GOP primary polls.

As the governor of Arkansas during the COVID-19 pandemic, Hutchinson said he demonstrated how to lead without shuttering all businesses and schools, and knows how to balance a budget. He also argued the U.S. must secure its southern border and must not yield to China, pledging that the U.S. will “stand with our friends” and allies around the world under his leadership. 

“Isolation only leads to weakness, and weakness leads to war,” Hutchinson said, adding that the best way to secure peace is to have the best military in the world. 

Hutchinson said he doesn’t want an “unending” war in Ukraine, and the best way to avoid that is to help Ukraine “today.”

He also vowed to support law enforcement, while saying he wants to scale back the FBI to focus on counterterrorism. And he emphasized the need to put Social Security and Medicare on a more sustainable path. 

Hutchinson said “the United States of America has been challenged in every generation from threats abroad to civil unrest at home. And when we are tested, we grow stronger.”

“We have learned that in times of turmoil, uncertainty, and division, America has always benefited from leaders who challenge us and give us hope,” Hutchinson continued. “I am confident that America is ready to seek new frontiers; and that we are ready to channel the restless waves of our democracy into more freedom and more prosperity for those who follow after us.”

Hutchinson’s formal announcement comes one day after Mr. Biden announced he’s running for a second term. In an interview with CBS News over the weekend, Hutchinson said Mr. Biden would be “a very tough opponent” in the general election if Trump is the nominee. He argued that the Republican Party has to have “someone different than Donald Trump running for president.” 

“Well, he would be a very tough opponent, if Donald Trump is the nominee. That’s [Democrats’] best wish, is that you have a repeat of 2020,” Hutchinson said. “So our best opportunity is to have a new face, someone with consistent conservative leadership that’s go experience in a broad arena that can appeal to the working class of America. And so, that’s our opportunity.” 

Still, Hutchinson said Mr. Biden as an incumbent is a “formidable opponent” and “you’d have to take that seriously.” 

“While we see all of the fractures in his leadership and his vision for the future as a weak America, both energy, both security and globally, we have to make our case every day and we have to present a candidate that can attract independents and suburban voters in the fall,” Hutchinson said.