Corker talks potential successors, says he won’t endorse

Sen. Bob Corker talked with reporters in his Washington office Tuesday with topics including his potential Republican successors and a declaration that he won’t endorse any of them.

Corker said he’s talked about with U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher about their potential runs – “I think there’s real interest from Congressman Blackburn” — and that Gov. Bill Haslam is a “likely person to at least think about it,” reports the Tennessean.

The senator said he doesn’t think former state Rep. Joe Carr will run and that there is a “low likelihood” that Peyton Manning will get in the race (later in the day, Manning said he will not). He didn’t mention Andy Ogles, the only announced Republican candidate for the seat he now holds.

At the end of the interview, which lasted nearly 30 minutes, Corker added: “By the way we’re not endorsing anybody.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Corker also elaborated on his decision while reflecting on his relationship with President Donald Trump and encouragement from others to run for re-election.

“You have people who are here and around the state and around the country that are saying hey, you can’t leave as the chairman of the foreign relations committee, you can’t leave, you can’t leave us here. There’s that pull to stay by people … who appreciate what you do,” he said.

Washington’s TV station WJLA focused on Corker comments about his relationship with President Trump:

“He truly just calls me sometimes to commiserate… The guy gets 4, 5 hours a night of sleep period.”

Corker went on to describe the president as a “ubiquitous” phone caller. 

“We have a unique relationship.”

Also from Washington, here’s an excerpt from an earlier Politico article:

“I felt in my gut it was the right thing to do some time ago. Your head wants to gut it out and you’ve got people counting on you,” he said. Referring to his fellow Tennessee GOP senator, Lamar Alexander, Corker added: “Lamar has known for some time i was very seriously considering leaving, as has Mitch — as has Trump.”

Corker likely would have faced a tough primary challenge next year from the right, likely backed by Steve Bannon. The former White House strategist met on Monday night in Alabama with Mark Green, who was mulling jumping into the race to challenge Corker.

But Corker said Trump has repeatedly urged him to run again.

“When we knew we had the support of the president, that didn’t really matter,” Corker said of Bannon.

And, the Associated Press says the senator gave few hints on future political plans “but he appears to be leaving the door slightly ajar on a potential run for Tennessee governor next year.”

Corker told reporters at the Capitol on Wednesday that he plans to “serve in some capacity,” but that he’s not actively pursuing any other office at the moment.

There is already a field of five major Republican candidates looking to succeed term-limited Gov. Bill Haslam, and Corker acknowledged that the best time to get into the governor’s race would likely have been a year ago.

UPDATE: Michael Collins followed up with a question to Corker Thursday and got this report (in a Tennessean story):

“I can’t imagine it,” Corker said in an interview Thursday of a possible gubernatorial bid. “We’ve got a field of folks who have been out there working hard, and people are in line behind them. It just doesn’t seem to me that that’s something that is realistic to be thinking about.”

When told that his answer didn’t sound like a definitive no, Corker responded, “You’re probably reading a little too much into it.”

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