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NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker has taken himself out of consideration as presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's running mate, but the Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee also isn't ruling out serving in a possible Trump administration if the opportunity materializes.
Corker, a former Chattanooga mayor who was on the short list of Trump's choices for the vice presidential slot, told the Times Free Press today he informed TrumpTuesday that he didn't believe he was cut out for a role as a vice presidential candidate or vice president.
That came while visiting for hours with the billionaire businessman, Trump's family, business associates and top political aides at Trump Tower in New York City and during a journey to a Raleigh, N.C., Trump rally Tuesday evening.
"I shared from the very beginning, in my very first meeting, I just viewed myself as much better suited to do other kinds of things," Corker said. "I'm chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today. I love that and I appreciate the citizens of our state allowing me to do that.
"At the same time," Corker added, "if ... at some point serving in an administration was something that became an opportunity - there's just better ways for someone like me to serve than being a candidate for vice president. It's highly political. As you know I try to focus far more on substance."
Corker said there "are people who are better suited for that kind of thing and i think i'm far better suited for other kinds of roles if i were to serve in an administration."
Some see Corker, who has earned high marks as Foreign Relations chairman, as a potential secretary in state.
Tuesday wasn't Corker's first face-to-face with discussions with Trump, having journeyed to Trump Tower in May to meet with him. That came not long after Corker made national news praising portions of the maverick Republican's first major foreign policy address.
The senator has been one of the few senators to try to forge a relationship with the often-controversial Trump, praising him at times but also criticizing some comments, albeit not harshly.
After meeting for much of Tuesday with Trump, his family and others, Corker joined Trump at a Raleigh, N.C., rally, introducing Trump to the crowd. In his introduction, Corker said the way news media present the expected GOP nominee is a "caricature" of the person he's gotten to know.
Corker brought that up again today, saying, "I think the caricature created of Donald Trump is really different from how he is in person. Very respectful of other people, very polite, very courteous, very considerate."
Like Trump and prior to becoming senator, Corker has been involved in construction, real estate management and development.
He said he was struck by the "tremendous amount of loyalty" he saw among long-time Trump executives. "And also the work environment itself is just a very very positive atmosphere."
It was "in many ways a remarkable experience," Corker said. "The young Trumps are most impressive. I say this with some degree of tongue in cheek - his best running mate would be Ivanka [Trump's daughter]. Of course that is, I understand, not possible. But she is really impressive and very mature. And they're all very very close."
Corker said the Trump rally was enlightening as well. He said Trump and his team have "a tremendous opportunity in front of them. I will say, you kinda have to see one of these events he has to see the sort of energy that exists and support for him.
"They've got this incredible opportunity. It's just sitting out there on a platter and what they've got to do is take full advantage of that," Corker said.
Reporter transcript of North Carolina campaign event address
Here is a transcript of Donald Trump and U.S. Sen. Bob Corker this evening as they address a Raleigh, N.C., rally amid reports the presumptive GOP presidential nominee is formally vetting the former Chattanooga mayor, among others, as his pick for vice president.
TRUMP: Before I do, a great friend of mine. Somebody respected by everybody. Sen. Bob Corker. Come on up, Bob. Come on up.
CORKER: I wasn't going to say anything. I just came to visit [crowd laughter]. But I have to say something, the rallies that I have back home aren't like this. Pretty cool, yeah, unbelievable isn't it?
I had a pretty remarkable day today. Pretty remarkable day. You know it says a lot about a person, to meet their family. To spend time with their kids, if you will, Ivanka and Eric and their son in law. And to be around the people that have worked in the Trump organization for 25 and 30 years. To see the respect for the person they've worked with, the father and father in law that they have. To see how he treats the people that are around him.
So many times in these campaigns people become caricatures of what the media makes them. And all too often after a race is over, people realize they never knew the person.
Somebody once told me it's not who you know in life, it's how you know them. And I had the incredible privilege today to spend time with this man, to spend time with his family and to spend time with those who know him so well.
And I figured out the reason that you love him so much is because [lengthy cheer by crowd and shouts of 'Trump, Trump, Trump]. I'm taking up his time. Let me just say this, the reason you love him so much is because he loves you. He loves you, and he wants the best for you, the president, the Republican nominee for president, Donald Trump.
TRUMP: Great guy. Great guy, great person.
This story was updated July 6 at 3:25 p.m. Stay with the Times Free Press as more information becomes available.