POLL: Was Corker right to withdraw from VP contention?
NASHVILLE — U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., on Wednesday removed himself from consideration as presumptive GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump's running mate, but he also said he would consider serving in a future 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, said in an interview that he informed Trump on Tuesday he didn't believe he was cut out for the role as a vice presidential candidate or vice president.
"It's highly political," Corker said of the vice presidential candidate's role, where the running mate is often put forward as the attack dog. "As you know I try to focus far more on substance."
Corker, the Foreign Relations Committee chairman, visited Trump at the candidate's Trump Tower headquarters in New York City early Tuesday and traveled with the billionaire businessman later that day to an evening rally in Raleigh, N.C.
"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."
Corker said there "are people who are better suited for that kind of thing [vice president] 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 of state.
Dr. Bruce Oppenheimer, a Vanderbilt University political science professor, said he could see why Trump would consider Corker among others as a running mate, noting "my sense is he's on a lot of people's list as a senator who looks reasonable."
But Oppenheimer also doesn't see Corker as a presidential ticket's attack man, although Trump so far has shown little shyness in playing that role himself both in his GOP primary battles and against Democrat Hillary Clinton.
Moreover, Oppenheimer asked, what was the upside for Corker in being on a ticket, should Trump lose, other than getting "credit, I guess, for being a good soldier? But my sense is he didn't have anything to gain and everything to lose from running."
Corker, whom some see as harboring presidential aspirations himself, could face the problem No. 2 candidates on losing presidential tickets face when running in their own right, Oppenheimer said. In modern U.S. history, they don't seem to get far, he said.
Tuesday wasn't Corker's first face-to-face meeting with Trump; the senator visited the candidate at Trump Tower in May. That came not long after Corker made national news praising portions of the maverick Republican's first major foreign policy address.
Corker has been one of the few senators to try to forge a relationship with the often-controversial Trump, praising the candidate at times but also criticizing some comments, while seeking to establish himself as an informal foreign policy adviser.
After meeting for much of Tuesday with Trump, his family and others, Corker introduced the candidate to the crowd at the North Carolina rally. Corker told the crowd the way news media present the expected GOP nominee is a "caricature" of the person he's gotten to know.
Corker told attendees he had gained a new appreciation for Trump after lengthy conversations earlier that day not only with the candidate but his family, top business associates and political team.
"The reason you love him so much is because he loves you," Corker told the cheering crowd. "He loves you, and he wants the best for you."
Trump described Corker as a "great guy, great person" before turning to a lengthy attack on Clinton and FBI Director James Comey's decision not to pursue criminal charges against the presumptive Democratic nominee over her use of a private email server as U.S. secretary of state.
Speaking on Wednesday, Corker said Trump and his team have "a tremendous opportunity" ahead.
"You kinda have to see one of these events he has to see the sort of energy that exists and support for him," Corker said. "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."
Asked specifically whether he would be interested in the secretary of state position if a Trump administration materializes, Corker said, "Look, I would never want to be presumptuous in any way about any of those kind of things. I think my mentor Howard Baker always stated over and over if you're called by a president to be considered to be involved in service of some kind, you should always sit down and discuss and consider what that might be.
"But," Corker added, "I don't want to get into necessarily what other types of roles."
Baker, a former U.S. Senate Majority Leader from Tennessee, ran against Ronald Reagan in Republicans' 1980 presidential primaries and lost. Reagan later asked Baker to serve as his chief of staff toward the end of his second term, which Baker did.
Contact staff writer Andy Sher at firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-255-0550. Follow on Twitter @AndySher1.