Black says Corker ‘should just sit back and be quiet’ in U.S. Senate campaign; Corker says ‘I guess I will’

A lengthy Politico report on the Bob Corker-Phil Bredesen-Marsha Blackburn melee includes multiple comments from Republican politicians; some on the record, some off. Among those identified is U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a candidate for governor, who deems Corker’s behavior “inappropriate” and says “he should just sit back and be quiet.” Corker says “I guess I will.”


Corker’s lukewarm support for Blackburn is more than an annoyance: The center-right coalition he represents is critical to Blackburn’s prospects in the race. But Chamber of Commerce-type Republicans are generally fond of Bredesen and his past stint as the state’s governor, seeing him as a pragmatic get-things-done kind of pol, as opposed to a hard-edged conservative ideologue in Blackburn.

“He’s a person that would get things done,” Tom Cigarran, a former Corker donor and chairman of the Nashville Predators hockey team, said of Bredesen in an interview Wednesday. “Marsha Blackburn, not so much.” Cigarran, who credited Bredesen with revitalizing downtown Nashville and reforming Medicaid, is backing the former Democratic governor and said people in his social and political circles are, too — “unless they are far-right fanatics.”

There are others. Colleen Conway-Welch, the widow of prominent GOP fundraiser Ted Welch, held a fundraiser for Bredesen in February. And Autozone founder Pitt Hyde, a reliable Republican donor from Memphis, is considering supporting Bredesen, according to two GOP sources familiar with the talks. Hyde did not return a request for comment.

The drama between Blackburn and Corker, combined with Bredesen’s crossover appeal, hint at a potential train wreck for Republicans in November that could swing the narrowly divided Senate to Democrats….  Supporters argue that there’s still plenty of time for her to catch up before November and that she has backing from the vast majority of the state’s Republican officials.

But Republicans in Washington and Tennessee worry that Corker’s Bredesen-friendly comments amount to a tacit permission for pragmatic-minded GOP voters to cross the aisle. They want Corker to go to bat for Blackburn or sit out the contest entirely.

“I have no idea whether it’s gender or personality or whatever issue, but I think that it is inappropriate for him to be doing what he’s doing,” said Rep. Diane Black, a Tennessee Republican running for governor, about Corker’s comments. “If nothing else, I think he should just sit back and be quiet.”

Corker said he’d be just fine with that: “I’d be more than glad to stop talking about it. So I guess I will.”

Several Tennessee operatives said the Corker-Blackburn divide is emblematic of the party’s split between younger activist conservatives and older pragmatists. Bredesen has a chance, they said, as long as he appeals to moderate Republicans who are turned off by Blackburn’s style.

“She’s got a lot of work to do,” said Mark Braden, who ran Corker’s 2012 campaign but also supports Blackburn.

“[These] are people that want to see things get done,” said one Tennessee GOP leader who won’t support Blackburn and asked for anonymity to speak frankly. “They’d like to see more bipartisanship and they don’t view her as capable of doing that.”

Blackburn’s campaign argues that the race will hinge on Bredesen’s fealty to Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), not the party’s internal turmoil.

…The only reason Blackburn has not hit back at Corker is that it could backfire with the very people in her party that she needs to win over, this person said.

“If you’re Marsha, your inclination is to go out and blister his ass,” said the Blackburn ally. But that’s “just going to piss off all those people who are already skeptical of her.”

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