NASHVILLE — A senior adviser to Republican U.S. Sen. Bob Corker acknowledged Sunday some Tennesseans and Senate colleagues are asking him to reconsider his decision to retire but said "at this point nothing has changed."
The statement to Tennessee reporters came after CNN, citing unnamed sources, earlier in the day raised the possibility that the Chattanoogan might be reconsidering, saying he had had conversations with a few colleagues, including U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., and U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
But CNN said there were "conflicted accounts" as to whether it was Corker or the senators raising the issue about his again running for the seat.
Amid an escalating, public dispute with President Trump, Corker announced Sept. 26 he would not seek election in 2018 to a third term. He later said he and the president have since made up. At the least, the two men are no longer attacking each other on Twitter.
Tennessee observers, meanwhile, say even if Corker wanted to it may be difficult given that two Republicans, U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn and former U.S. Rep. Stephen Fincher, are already off and running in the GOP while former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen is running unopposed in the Democratic primary.facebook
The senior adviser to Corker said "it is true that Senator Corker has been encouraged by people across Tennessee and in the Senate to reconsider his decision, but at this point nothing has changed."
But even if it does, Blackburn doesn't appear ready to back up. With regard to the possibility of Corker jumping into the contest, Blackburn campaign spokeswoman Andrea Bozek said in a statement "Senator Corker hasn't conveyed that to Rep. Blackburn.
"Our campaign is running full speed ahead, we are running to win and Marsha is the only true conservative in the race that can beat Phil Bredesen," Bozek said.
One plugged-in state Republican said "there are people encouraging Corker but as far as I know nothing has changed," then agreed, "it'd be real hard" at this point for Corker, who announced Sept. 26 amid a fierce public spat with President Trump that he wouldn't seek a third term.
But the same Republican said "there's concern that Bredesen's entry puts this race in play" both with Blackburn, who is further to the right than Corker, and Fincher, who is not well known.
CNN reported that conversations about Corker getting back in came up at least once in a conversation with U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., posing problems for McConnell, who while he likes Corker and wished he'd sought re-election, apparently may be uncomfortable at this juncture.
Moreover, according to a pro-Blackburn Republican, Trump wants "no part of it."
Last year, Corker created a national stir when he publicly criticized Trump in a Chattanooga speech, questioning the president's ambivalent response about who was at fault in a Charlottesville, Va., clash over removal of statues of top Confederate leaders. The protests resulted in a woman killed with a white supremacist police say was the driver being charged with murder.
Trump taunted Corker on Twitter about the Tennessean's being undecided about seeking reelection and said the senator "begged" for the president for an endorsement.
After one presidential tweet, Corker returned fire, calling the White House an "adult day care center" with no one evidently in charge that day. That drew a derisive response from Trump who mocked the senator as "Liddle Bob Corker" who couldn't "get elected dog catcher."
Things have considerably calmed down since.
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.
This story was updated Feb. 11, 2018, at 11:33 p.m. with more information.