Politico website touts Haslam as 'GOP star'

8:34 PM, Feb 21, 2013   |    comments
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While many politicians have grabbed headlines for flamboyant conflicts and controversial policies, a national website is lauding Tennessee's governor for his low-key and civil political approach.

Politico.com published an article about Haslam titled "The GOP star you've never heard of."

The article praises Haslam for his ability to tactfully get things done while working across the political spectrum.  That quality was clearly on display Thursday night as Haslam participated in a roundtable discussion with former Tennessee governors Phil Bredesen and Don Sundquist at UT's Howard H. Baker Jr. Center.  The topic of discussion was civility in politics.

It has only been a couple of years since Knoxville's mayor flew to Nashville to become Governor Bill Haslam.  Since then Haslam has primarily remained under the radar, but is now being noticed on his party's national scope.

"I think Haslam is being noticed because of the fact that he has a very strong political sense, in the sense that he's not trying to make every battle some kind of epic media laden battle.  He knows how to choose his fights," said Dr. Mark O'Gorman, political science professor at Maryville College.

O'Gorman said political blogs across the country have reacted positively to Politico's national introduction of Haslam.  Specifically, O'Gorman said the reactions frequently contrast Haslam with the recent national attention Tennessee's controversial state senator Stacey Campfield has received.

"The reaction is a breath of relief and just saying, 'Finally, a Tennessee politician you can feel comfortable having a conversation with.'  Lately, the only political figure anyone outside of Tennessee has seen or heard much about is Stacey Campfield on the Colbert Report."

Nationally, people are taking notice of Haslam's ability to respectfully disagree with others and simultaneously work with them to achieve common goals.  In 2011, Haslam took the stage with President Obama to announce the end of the federal "No Child Left Behind" standards.

"We might not always agree with this administration on policy issues or maybe even the role of the federal government, but when there are things we can work together on then we should," stated Haslam.

Former governor Phil Bredesen, a democrat, praised Haslam for his performance as executive of the state government.

"I think he [Haslam] has done a good job and he has done it under some difficult and trying circumstances with his legislature," said Bredesen.  "Tennessee ought to be proud to have him [Haslam]."

In the wake of President Obama's reelection, the GOP seems to be energetically searching for someone it can anoint as its next star.  Such was the case for U.S. Senator Marco Rubio from Florida leading up to his response to Obama's State of the Union address, now remembered primarily for an awkward case of dry mouth and Rubio ducking off camera for a swig of water.

The GOP searchlight scanning the landscape for a new leader now shines more brightly on Haslam.

"They see someone in a decidedly red state and red region who seems to be able to, if not work across the aisles, at least get respect from both sides of the aisle. And I think that's something the GOP nationally needs to have more of if they're going to be successful in 2016," said O'Gorman.

The Politico article mentions Haslam as a possible member of the GOP ticket for the White House in 2016.  Haslam says he is solely focused on the job of being Tennessee's governor.

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