Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin exits governor's race in a sign of Trump-backed Huckabee Sanders' strength
Posted February 8, 2021 1:36 p.m. EST
CNN — Arkansas Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin departed the 2022 governor's race Monday, opting instead to run for attorney general, in a move that signals former White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders' strength just two weeks after she announced her campaign.
Griffin's exit underscores the hold former President Donald Trump, who quickly endorsed Huckabee Sanders' bid, continues to have on the Republican Party, even out of office and removed from his favorite social media platforms.
Just two weeks ago, Griffin told CNN in an interview that he planned to defeat Huckabee Sanders on "substance" and that he'd be ready for the job of governor on his first day in office -- "and no one else is."
"I think there's a lot to talk about other than personalities, and I'm going to talk about it. I'm going to talk a whole lot about ideas and substance. And at the end of the day, that's what makes the difference in Arkansans' lives," Griffin said then.
However, even out of office, Trump remains hugely influential in Republican politics. His quick endorsement of his former aide -- as well as Huckabee Sanders' standing as the daughter of a former governor -- led Republican operatives to believe she was the heavy favorite.
Huckabee Sanders is the first of several Trump family members and former aides to run for office after his departure from Washington. And while polls show Trump's popularity took a severe blow following the January 6 riots at the Capitol, he remains the dominant figure in GOP politics -- with allies now occupying the top ranks of the party's national and state infrastructure.
Griffin, a former congressman who worked for former President George W. Bush's reelection campaign and in his White House, had raised $1.3 million between March of 2020 and the end of the year. Huckabee Sanders nearly matched that total within days, her campaign said.
"While I believe Arkansans are ready for my message of bold, conservative leadership, my conversations with friends and supporters have persuaded me that at this time, I can do more for Arkansas in a different capacity," Griffin said in a statement. "I have prayed about this decision with my family and I have listened."
Huckabee Sanders still has to beat current Attorney General Leslie Rutledge and potentially other candidates in next year's primary. In a statement Monday, Rutledge wished Griffin well, but offered no indication that she would exit the gubernatorial race.