Former Governor Bill Haslam knew he could win the U.S. Senate seat.
At least that’s what internal polls told him. But the position would have been different from what he’s been used to, first as mayor of Knoxville and then as governor of Tennessee.
As a senator, Haslam told WPLN, there’s less direct influence.
“Senators’ jobs are about policy and arguing legislation," Haslam said. "And that doesn’t feel to me what my personal sweet spot is, if you will.”
So, after traveling and spending time with his grandkids for the last six months, he decided not to run.
He said President Donald Trump’s rhetoric and style — which he's criticized — didn’t sway his decision. But he did reference the overall political climate.
“I did my best to try to set that aside and say, ‘Well, circumstances shouldn’t dictate what we decide to do,'" Haslan said. "There’s no question that the current environment is a little discouraging if you think you actually can go and solve some of the bigger issues facing the country.”
His decision came as a blow to moderate Republicans who wanted Haslam to represent them.
The latest contender for the U.S. Senate is a conservative backed by President Trump.
Bill Hagerty is the U.S. Ambassador to Japan and a former cabinet member under Haslam. Hagerty is expected to step down from his post later this month.
Last year, the president also endorsed U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn.
Both Hagerty and Blackburn represent a different faction of the Republican party in Tennessee. Haslam admits the party and the state are changing.
“Tennessee is a much more conservative state than it was 10 years ago and definitely than it was 20 years ago," Haslam said.
With him out of the race, the Republican party and the state are likely to keep changing and swinging more to the right.