Haslam on becoming RGA attack dog: ‘Not my style’

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie was known as an attack dog during his tenure as chairman of the Republican Governors Association, observes the Chattanooga TFP, while new RGA Chairman Bill Haslam “is known to friends and critics as the ever-optimistic Mr. Nice Guy.

So how does an amiable guy who often shuns direct confrontation work out as Mr. Attack Dog?

Haslam chuckled this week when reporters asked that question.

“I think anybody knows that’s probably not my style,” Haslam said. “But I do think it matters who we elect across the country.”

He quickly turned the topic to GOP gains in 2014 and how Republicans showed they are not solely a regional, Southern-based party with victories in Democratic states such as Massachusetts and Maryland. (Note: A typical Haslam tactic in avoiding potential confrontational questions, of course, is to change the subject slightly and offering an innocuous comment.)

…Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Chris Devaney predicted Haslam will do a fine job as chairman.

“I think that Gov. Haslam certainly has the experience. He’s a great campaigner and fundraiser. He knows how to win,” Devaney said.

As for Haslam’s nice-guy image, Devaney said, “everybody brings different styles to any position.”

“I don’t think you necessarily have to have the style Chris Christie has,” he added.

…”I just think his kind of message, a very positive message talking about all the great things Republicans can do under conservative leadership … is going to resonate very well,” Devaney said.

Mike Turner, the former state House Democratic Caucus chairman who does have a reputation as an attack dog, said he generally got along with Haslam with some major exceptions, such as expanding the state’s Medicaid program.

“He can be tough when he needs to be tough. He’s shown that to me,” Turner said. “There were times when things were going on and I made some statements or things were sent to him and he stood his ground.”

But he said he hopes Haslam will prove a “good influence” on Republicans at the national level.

“They’ve gone too far to the right. … I think he can be a moderating force on that group,” Turner said.