Haslam ‘Not Close’ to Picking GOP Presidential Favorite

Tennessee Republican Gov. Bill Haslam said Friday he has not decided whom to support in the Republican field for president and isn’t inclined to tell his family or members of his administration whom to support either.

Haslam said roughly half the GOP candidates have called him to say they would like his help.

“I’m honestly not close to making a decision about who I’ll support,” he said.

Haslam said he met with a group of business representatives Thursday night and so did not see a televised debate among the GOP candidates in Ames, Iowa.

“I’m like most people. I’m interested in the political process, probably a little more than most,” Haslam said. “I’m obviously interested in the Republican primary, so I’ll be watching that.”

The governor downplayed the significance of a widely anticipated Iowa straw poll scheduled in Iowa on Saturday.

“I’m not an expert on Iowa presidential politics, but I’m not sure the straw vote is the final word on where Iowa goes, or where the country goes,” he said.

Haslam said his family and administration are free to go their own ways in deciding whom to support.

“They’re grown-ups who get to make their own decision,” Haslam said. “Really, on this one, I haven’t said, ‘Please don’t get involved.’

“Other members of my family are trying to decide who they’re going to support and help. They’re probably at the listen-and-learn stage as well.”

Haslam’s commissioner of economic development, Bill Hagerty, was a national finance chairman for Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2008. But Haslam said his only directive to his administration is not to do any presidential politicking on the state’s nickel.

“What I’ve said is, ‘Anything you do, you need to do on your own time and not take away from state resources and state time,'” Haslam said. “After that, I think they’re adults who should be able to support who they want.”

While Haslam hasn’t committed, Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey this week said he will be supporting Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Republican candidates who debated in Iowa on Thursday were Romney, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota Congressman Michele Bachmann, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, businessman Herman Cain, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

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