Corker defends favorable comments about Bredesen on national TV shows

Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker defended his favorable comments about former Gov. Phil Bredesen, a Democrat running to succeed him,  on two national TV talk shows Sunday though other Republicans have criticized his remarks as possibly damaging Republican Marsha Blackburn’s prospects. Corker also repeated his general support for “our nominee” though never mentioning Blackburn by name.

From the Times Free Press:

Corker, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, made back-to-back appearances on CNN’s “State of the Union” and ABC’s “This Week.”

“He is my friend,” Corker said regarding Bredesen to CNN’s Dana Bash. “I’m not going to campaign against him, but I’m supporting our nominee.”

Asked why Blackburn would be better than Bredesen, Corker said, “I think most people in our state, it is a red state, will focus on the first vote she makes, and that’s the vote to elect the majority leader. And at the end of the day, I think that’s going to be a big factor in the race.”

As Bash pointed out, that didn’t exactly sound like a “ringing endorsement” of Blackburn’s candidacy, Corker replied, “I’m supporting the nominee. I’ve worked with the nominee for some time, and I don’t know what else to say.”

Speaking later with ABC’s George Stephanopoulis, Corker said “Yes, I mean it’s been clear. I sent the maximum check [to Blackburn] as soon as it was determined that she was our nominee.”

“What I said, I’m supporting the nominee,” Corker added. “Everyone knows that. I sent the maximum check and plan to vote for them.”

In both appearances, Corker took a swipe at the Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee he accused of leaking to The Washington Post concerns raised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to Corker on the Senate floor about the senator’s favorable remarks about Bredesen. The remarks came at a Wednesday breakfast discussion hosted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Corker described Bredesen at the event as “a very good mayor, a very good governor, a very good business person. And look, I’m not going to campaign against someone who I’ve been a friend with and worked with, so that’s the way it’s gonna be.”

An excerpt from the referenced Washington Post report:

The remarks set off alarm bells at the highest levels of the Republican Party and supporters of the leading GOP candidate in the race, Rep. Marsha Blackburn, interpreted them as a personal slight. McConnell’s allies spoke with White House aides about organizing a public response.

President Trump called Blackburn on Wednesday from his club in Palm Beach, Fla., and told her he disagreed with Corker’s comments and promised to help her campaign, according to two people familiar with the call who requested anonymity to speak candidly. Trump tweeted his endorsement of Blackburn on Thursday afternoon.

McConnell and Corker, who has said he will support Blackburn, had a lengthy discussion on the Senate floor Wednesday about his remarks, according to three people with knowledge of the conversation. McConnell told Corker his comments were unhelpful — both in the Tennessee race and in the larger battle for the Senate majority, the individuals said.

McConnell also reminded Corker that Republicans were in the current situation only because Corker had decided to retire. Bredesen, a top Democratic recruit, entered the race after Corker bowed out. The conversation did not end on a confrontational note, the individuals said.

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