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Mary DeShazo Rice hugs U.S. Sen. Bob Corker before a Rotary Club of Chattanooga luncheon at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Thursday. Corker spoke at the luncheon about the importance of free enterprise to the U.S. economy.


• Fred Anderson (R)

• Mark Clayton (D)

• Mark Twain Clemens (R)

• Larry Crim (D)

• Shaun E. Crowell (I)

• Gary Davis (D)

• David Gatchell (I)

• Dave Hancock (D)

• James Higdon (I)

• Ashley King (D)

• Brenda S. Lenard (R)

• Michel Long (I)

• Park Overall (D)

• T.K. Owens (D)

• Zach Poskevich (R)

• Benjamin Roberts (D)

• Troy Stephen Scoggin (I)

Note: This is an unofficial list. The state must process the candidates' petitions to determine whether they have the required number of signatures and whether other qualifying criteria have been met.

Source: Tennessee Department of State

polls here 1759

U.S. Sen. Bob Corker on Thursday gave a 62-second response to a question on whether he would accept an offer to be the Republican presidential nominee's running mate.

In all that time, he never said no.

"There's a time and a place to talk about those kinds of things and now is not it," the Tennessee Republican told reporters at Chattanooga Convention Center. "I think you wait and see who the nominee is. You see what it is they want to do, and you weigh those things as to where you might be most effective.

"Sorry to be so evasive," he later said with a grin.

Corker also declined to identify his pick for the presidency.

Gov. Bill Haslam, U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander and other establishment Republicans in Tennessee publicly backed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney ahead of the Volunteer State's March 6 primary, but former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum ended up winning the state by 9 percentage points.

"I'm not sure people like us have much effect on [elections] if you want to know the truth," Corker said.

His comments followed a lunchtime speech to the Rotary Club of Chattanooga, where longtime Corker attorney James M. Haley IV introduced the former Chattanooga mayor as a "thorn in the posterior of both political parties."

In a widely reported 2010 Capitol Hill confrontation, Corker criticized President Barack Obama over financial regulation, and he often chides his own party for what he perceives as short-sightedness on curbing Medicare costs and other issues.

Corker appeared in Chattanooga a day after Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida dismissed speculation that he would be Romney's running mate as the former Massachusetts governor inches closer to the Republican nomination.

"I'm not going to be the vice president," Rubio said Wednesday, according to the Los Angeles Times.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and U.S. Reps. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Allen West, R-Fla., also have been thrown into the veepstakes. Corker, whose name has surfaced in several articles exploring the issue, said it's very unlikely he'll be asked. He cited "geography" as the main reason why.

Some experts have said the GOP nominee likely will select a running mate based on whether he or she can deliver a swing state such as Florida or Virginia. Tennessee is considered a shoo-in for the Republican ticket.

Still, Corker "has the potential to give Romney the shoring up he desperately needs in the South," according to the Daily Kos, a liberal-leaning blog that also mentioned Haslam as a possible Romney pick.

Without naming Romney, Corker predicted "much more consolidation" around a candidate after April 24 primaries in Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.

Corker is up for re-election this year. Political action committees working on behalf of Romney have donated at least $10,000 to Corker's re-election campaign, and a Santorum PAC gave $10,000 to Corker when the well-heeled developer first ran for Senate in 2006.

Aides for Corker have said those contributions will not factor into the senator's presidential choice, which he may keep private.

"I'm probably going to just watch the process unfold," he said.

An unofficial state list released Thursday said Corker has 17 challengers in his re-election bid, but the financial spread is wide. Records show the Corker campaign reported $7.4 million going into 2012. His closest opponent, Republican Zach Poskevich, reported $9,375 on hand.

U.S. Rep. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., was in Chattanooga Thursday, but he did not attend Corker's speech unlike two of his GOP challengers - Athens, Tenn., dairy executive Scottie Mayfield and Weston Wamp, the 25-year-old son of Fleischmann's immediate predecessor, former U.S. Rep. Zach Wamp.

Mayfield spoke privately with Corker after the senator's speech, but Corker declined to discuss the 3rd Congressional District race.