Politico: ‘Distaste’ for Blackburn behind GOP prodding of Corker to reconsider retirement

Following up on earlier reports, Politico says  “a faction of Republicans in Tennessee and Washington” – worried that Republican Marsha Blackburn could lose the November U.S. Senate general election and give Democrats a Senate majority – continues to urge Sen. Bob Corker to reconsider his retirement plans.

A Blackburn spokeswoman scoffs at the notion of the current congressman as a loser and Corker is non-committal (though someone ‘close’ to the senator says he’s listening), according to the lengthy article. The piece also suggests that Corker has “reached out” to President Donald Trump to get his thinking on a retreat from retirement.

“While Corker is listening to the concerns that have been raised, he hasn’t made any commitments,” said the person close to Corker. Corker himself said on Monday he had no comment on the race.

An internal poll taken in late January shows former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen narrowly edging out Blackburn in a hypothetical match-up. (Previous post HERE.) With Republicans controlling just 51 seats, a loss in Tennessee and other competitive races could put the Senate in play — despite an electoral map tilted heavily in the GOP’s favor.

… Asked to respond to Corker’s second thoughts and the coterie of Republicans pushing him to run again, Blackburn’s campaign insisted she was in the race to stay, whether Corker runs or not. Blackburn’s allies argue she will unite the GOP in the conservative state and crush Bredesen in the fall.

“It’s well past time for the good old boys’ club in Washington, D.C., to quit thinking they know who the best candidate and conservative leader is for Tennessee families,” said Andrea Bozek, a spokeswoman for Blackburn.

Public polls show Blackburn is a heavy favorite over former Rep. Stephen Fincher in the primary to succeed Corker, and her allies argue the state is so Republican that she can’t lose after winning the primary. Trump won nearly 2-to-1 against Hillary Clinton in Tennessee. She also raised $2 million in her first quarter as a candidate, a significant haul. Meanwhile, a Club for Growth poll from January showed Blackburn trouncing Corker.

…“The message that I’d want to give to the folks trying to entice Corker into running: You shouldn’t do it, he’s gonna lose,” said Club President David McIntosh. “It would be a sad way for him to end his career to end up being defeated. We will continue to support Marsha.”

McIntosh also argued that Corker re-entering the race would only weaken the GOP by reopening ideological chasms within the party. Indeed, there is a long- running feud between Tennessee’s more moderate Republicans and conservatives like Blackburn.

Moderates in Tennessee had been aligning with Fincher, but Blackburn has outraised him and Fincher has failed to get traction in the polls. Fincher’s campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

Victor Ashe, a former GOP mayor of Knoxville, prefers Fincher but said he’s “not sure that he’s a candidate, based on his inactivity.” If he was left to choose between Blackburn and Bredesen, Ashe said he would not commit to endorsing Blackburn. “I could go either way,” Ashe said

…Former Tennessee Republican Gov. Don Sundquist was blunt when asked about Blackburn: “You can say on the record I’m not supporting her.” Blackburn worked in Sundquist’s administration and the two do not get along after Blackburn opposed Sunquist’s push for a state income tax.

The distaste for Blackburn in some parts of the party is driving the campaign to recruit Corker to get back in. Those Republicans argue that she could blow a winnable race, pointing to Bredesen’s coalitions of Republican supporters when he won two gubernatorial races.

“Tennessee by any normal standard is a Republican state. I think it’s only close with Blackburn,” said a top Tennessee Republican urging Corker to get back in. “The problem is Marsha’s a polarizing force. Her nomination is the only path to put this race in play.”

…Yet Corker would almost certainly need a blessing from Trump to have any hope of beating Blackburn, who has received money from Vice President Mike Pence’s political action committee. Corker has reached out to the White House to gauge Trump’s support, according to a source familiar with those conversations. And almost all of the dozen Republican officials and operatives interviewed for this story say Corker would need a presidential endorsement to have any chance against Blackburn.

Note: Previous post HERE.  For another follow-up from a perhaps different perspective, see Breitbart News report headlined, “Sen. Bob Corker’s trial balloon of ‘second thoughts’ about retirement lands with a thud.”

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