NASHVILLE — Republican U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, R-Tenn., who early on endorsed Donald Trump for president, says he sees a role for U.S. Sen. Bob Corker in a possible Trump administration but not necessarily as vice president.
DesJarlais, who is serving as a liaison to the Trump campaign, said he has "no inside information" on Trump's thinking but believes another job may be the one for Corker, chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"I'll put my money on Secretary of State for Corker," DesJarlais told the Times Free Press on Saturday at the Bradley County Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day gathering.
"My gut feeling right now — and I usually don't have a gut feeling with vice presidents because I think it's one of the hardest things to pick or prognosticate — I'm thinking [Newt] Gingrich" as Trump's pick for veep.
"He's someone who knows the system and knows how to work with the House and Senate," said DesJarlais of Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker from Georgia who has run for president.
"Just the way it's teeing up, I'd say it was a 70/30 chance that's who it is. No inside information, just a hunch."
Many Republicans see Corker as a contender to be Trump's running mate. Citing Trump campaign sources, The Washington Post last week reported that Corker is scheduled to meet with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee today at Trump Tower in New York.
Corker last month offered public praise for Trump's first major foreign policy address and recently told Tennessee reporters he continues to speak with the brash billionaire.
"I'm certainly not calling over, but only responding when I'm asked," said Corker, who made no endorsement in the GOP presidential primary.
He said voters "decided on someone that had a very strong personality and was certainly opposing the status quo, anti-establishment. And that's what they wanted to see."
Still, the man whom Trump has chosen to help vet his running mate is a veteran Washington hand who also happens to be a Tennessean.
Bloomberg News reported last week that A.B. Culvahouse Jr., who grew up in Meigs County and is a long-time friend of Tennessee Republican U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, is advising Trump.
Meanwhile, DesJarlais said Paul Manafort, whom Trump recently made his campaign chairman and chief strategist, joined him in meeting the board of the arch-conservative House Freedom Caucus.
"So we had that and that went well," said DesJarlais, who added Trump plans to be there in the next two weeks to meet some more with leadership. "And we're going to try to get him to meet with the Freedom Caucus."
DesJarlais said he believes top Republicans are "coalescing" around Trump.
"I think Paul Ryan is the last of leadership not to officially endorse him," the congressman said, adding, "I think that'll be coming sooner rather than later."
"It's one of those things where people had to get over the disappointment of their candidate losing. And when [Ted] Cruz dropped out, it was a sudden thing and no one was really expected it at that point.
"So I just think that it took a little while for everyone to realize, OK, this is what is happening and we need to get behind a candidate. But it does seem to be coming together really well."
Contact Andy Sher at email@example.com or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.