NASHVILLE - His phone has yet to ring, but Gov. Phil Bredesen isn't ruling out accepting any would-be Obama administration offer for U.S. Health and Human Services secretary should it be presented.
"I have not had any calls from the White House or anybody asking me about it," Gov. Bredesen told reporters Thursday. "And you know, we'll see what happens. I'm not packing my bags or anything."
Gov. Bredesen's name has been floated as a potential nominee in a number recent news articles as Washington media play a guessing game on whom President Barack Obama will select to replace Tom Daschle. After it was revealed the he hadn't paid about $140,000 in taxes, Mr. Daschle withdrew his name from nomination.
The governor speculated that his name has come up because he is a Southern governor who "has been involved in health care all my life. I think for that reason my name has been on these lists."
U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., has also been mentioned as a possible candidate.
But both men, especially Gov. Bredesen, have come under fierce attack from liberal groups.
In an e-mail sent earlier this week, Tennessee Healthcare Campaign executive director Tony Garr attacked Gov. Bredesen's 2005 cuts of some 170,000 TennCare enrollees and subsequent enrollee reductions and later reductions.
"He acted like the CEO of the managed care company where he made his millions and protected his bottom line," Mr. Garr charged in the e-mail, which urged recipients to flood the White House with calls opposing the governor.
But former U.S. Senate majority leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., defended both Gov. Bredesen and Rep. Cooper, saying he has "tremendous respect for Gov. Bredesen."
Dr. Frist, a physician, cited the gubernatorial experience of Gov. Bredesen and alluded to his management and administrative experience as a former HMO entrepreneur. He said of Rep. Cooper that: "In the health policy arena in Congress right now there's no person I admire more than Jim Cooper."