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GOP presidential candidate Hutchinson must find a new campaign manager but vows to stay in the race

FILE - Republican presidential candidate former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson speaks at the Republican Party of Iowa's 2023 Lincoln Dinner in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, July 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Asa Hutchinson said Saturday that the campaign manager for his beleaguered bid for the Republican presidential nomination is departing, but the former Arkansas governor said he is not dropping out of the crowded race.

Hutchinson confirmed that Rob Burgess will leave on Oct. 31, and the candidate said he planned other changes to his campaign. Hutchinson, who entered the 2024 race in April, has struggled to make in-roads as an anti-Donald Trump candidate. He failed to qualify for the party's second debate and seems unlikely to make the third, on Nov. 8, when participants must meet the most stringent requirements yet.

"Clearly I am working hard to win votes and to increase my voting percentages, particularly in the early states," Hutchinson told The Associated Press. “It’s not unusual for a campaign to have a midcourse adjustment and that’s what you'll be seeing here with Rob's departure and with readjustments that we'll make in the campaign staff.”

Burgess' departure was first reported by CNN. Burgess did not confirm the report but said in a text message to the AP to direct all inquiries to Hutchinson. Hutchinson said he will announce a new campaign manager later.

Hutchinson has been one of the few Republican candidates willing to directly take on Trump and he had called on the former president to drop out of the race after Trump was indicted in March by a grand jury in New York. Before Hutchinson entered the race, he said Trump's latest White House run was the “worst scenario” for the GOP.

Burgess' departure comes after other candidates have suspended their campaigns, including former Texas Rep. Will Hurd and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, as well as businessman Perry Johnson. Conservative talk radio host Larry Elder said Thursday he was ending his campaign. On Saturday, former Vice President Mike Pence dropped out.

Hutchinson acknowledged he faces an uphill battle for the nomination, but said he remained optimistic about his chances.

“The direction of our primary is going to have to change through the voters reevaluating who's going to be the leader of our party and the nominee,” Hutchinson said. “Right now, Trump is in the No. 1 position there. I've always been of the view that's going to change, and I still have that view.”

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Associated Press writer Michelle Price in Las Vegas contributed to this report