With just over six months to go until the Republican presidential primary in Tennessee, Gov. Bill Haslam isn’t ready to pick a favorite.
Given that he’s still serving as chairman of the Republican Governors Association — a post he was tapped for last November, and will hold until a new chairperson is selected this November — Haslam said Thursday he doesn’t think it’s a good idea to take a side yet.
“We have four existing governors running and five former governors, so it’s probably best for me to stay out of it until I am either not in this role or that field narrows some,” Haslam said following a stop off in Shelbyville on his tour across the state to discuss transportation and road funding.
The sitting governors include Chris Christie of New Jersey, Scott Walker of Wisconsin, Bobby Jindal of Louisiana and John Kasich of Ohio.
The former governors are Jeb Bush of Florida, Rick Perry of Texas, Jim Gilmore of Virginia, Mike Huckabee of Arkansas and George Pataki of New York.
Seventeen recognizable candidates are currently hunting the GOP nomination.
Haslam said he doesn’t doubt that front runner Donald Trump is hitting on themes that resonate with Tennessee Republican voters, just as he is across the country. National polls show the blunt-spoken New York billionaire plainly leading the GOP field — and even in other some of the establishment-favorites’ home states, like Bush’s Florida.
But Tennessee’s governor said a lot of debating and campaigning has yet to be done before the Volunteer State’s GOP presidential primary on Super Tuesday — March 1 — and he suggested that politicians with real-world governing experience will gain ground as the candidates’ policy proposals get fleshed out and vetted.
“More and more, the race will turn down to who can actually solve the very real problems that we have,” he said.