POLL: Will Bob Corker be Donald Trump's running mate?
NASHVILLE — Amid reports he is emerging as one of the finalists in Donald Trump's search for a running mate, U.S. Sen. Bob Corker met Tuesday with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee in New York City and later introduced the billionaire businessman to a cheering crowd at a Raleigh, N.C., rally.
The Tennessee Republican, former Chattanooga mayor and chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has formally submitted vetting materials to the Trump search effort, NBC News reported.
Earlier Tuesday, a Corker aide had no comment to the Times Free Press on whether the senator was being vetted.
Later, Corker and Trump flew to Raleigh, where Trump introduced him as a "great friend of mine, someone respected by everyone."
Corker, who also met with Trump at his Trump Tower headquarters in May, told rally attendees he hadn't expected to speak, but noted it had been a "pretty remarkable day" to meet not only with Trump but family members and longtime members of his organization.
He noted it was good "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," Corker added. "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," Corker said, "I figured out the reason that you love him so much is because [lengthy cheers 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."
Corker then introduced Trump as "the president — the Republican nominee for president — Donald Trump."
Trump's vetting process is being handled by A.B. Culvahouse Jr., a Washington attorney and one-time top GOP presidential aide who is himself from Tennessee. One fellow Tennessee-based Republican said the two know each other but not all that well.
In Corker, Trump may see someone a little like himself: a blunt, outspoken person who can be quick on his feet and has roots in the construction industry, as well as real estate.
Corker has surprised some in Republican circles by his occasional praise of Trump, including chiding fellow Republicans in early spring to give up on their "stop Trump" effort. He later praised the presumptive nominee's first major foreign policy address. And Corker recently spoke favorably of Trump's comments about Great Britain's "Brexit" vote to leave the European Union.
But he has offered occasional criticisms, as well, albeit mild ones.
Former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe, a Republican and former U.S. ambassador to Poland, said in an email that he believes Trump picking Corker as his VP would "strengthen the ticket and be a popular decision."
"Bob's record as a mayor, commissioner of finance in state government and U.S. senator is exceptional," said Ashe, who served as Knoxville's mayor during the time Corker headed Chattanooga government. "He would be an outstanding vice president."
Some have seen Corker as a potential pick by Trump, should he win the presidency over Democrat Hillary Clinton, for secretary of state. Corker, who was first elected to the Senate in 2006, knows world leaders and could be seen in either role as a benefit to Trump.
But Corker's willingness now to plant himself solidly in the Trump camp is drawing fire from Tennessee Democratic Party Chairwoman Mary Mancini, who charged the Chattanoogan's "political ambition trumps his integrity."
Mancini said Trump declared a federal judge was unfit to preside over a case involving Trump University because of his national origin, and she also charged the presumed GOP nominee refused to condemn white supremacists campaigning on his behalf and condoned the "beating of a Black Lives Matter protester."
Mancini contrasted that with Corker's own actions as a U.S. Senate candidate in 2006 battling Democrat Harold Ford Jr., who is black. Mancini recalled Corker "willing to stand up to the racists in his own party by disavowing a campaign ad condemned nationally for racebaiting."
The National Republican Senatorial Committee ad was known as the "Call Me" ad. The spot stemmed from news accounts that Ford, who was single at the time, had attended a Playboy party at a Super Bowl attended by some 3,000 people.
The spot featured a young woman with blonde hair and bare shoulders who looked into the camera and declared she met Ford at a "Playboy party." The ad closes with the woman looking into the camera and saying, with a wink, "Harold, call me."
Critics called the ad racist. Corker, who had no control over the ad, called on the National Republican Senatorial Committee to take the ad down, which it eventually did.
"Sen. Corker used to be a public servant with character, but his political ambitions are clouding his judgment," Mancini said.
"Today," she added, "Sen. Corker sold out his principles and is standing on a stage with Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee who has repeatedly made racist remarks, engaged in discriminatory business practices, encouraged violence against Black Lives Matter protesters at his rallies, and refused to renounce David Duke's support for his campaign. Ten years later, for the Bob Corker of 2016, his political ambition trumps his integrity."
Contact Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.
Reporter transcript of 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.