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Corker Won’t Campaign Against Democratic Ex-Governor Who Wants to Succeed Him

Retiring Republican has contributed to Blackburn, but has long relationship with Bredesen

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is listening to members of his party who have asked him to reconsider retiring after his term ends. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is listening to members of his party who have asked him to reconsider retiring after his term ends. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Former Democratic Gov. Phil Bredesen has significant crossover appeal, but just how much may depend on whether Tennessee voters think control of the Senate is at stake.

That is the view of the retiring senator who Bredesen and Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn are seeking to replace, who thinks the Democrat might be ahead by six points today.

Sen. Bob Corker reiterated Wednesday that he has endorsed and maxed out on contributions to Blackburn, but nonetheless lavished praise on Bredesen.

The two men worked together in various capacities in Tennessee politics, including while working to bring the then-Houston Oilers NFL team to Nashville, as well as while Bredesen was governor and Corker was mayor of Chattanooga.

“We had clandestine meetings at my home,” Corker said of their work with Volkswagen executives to lure the German auto giant to open facilities the Volunteer State.

Watch: Corker Says Blackburn Likely Six Points Behind Democrat in Tennessee Senate Race

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Speaking at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor, Corker said his instinct was that a Middle Tennessee State University poll showing Blackburn trailing by 10 points was probably a little off the mark.

But, in what might only increase the level of alarm for the GOP, he said, “I’m guessing she’s down six, but down for real six.”

Corker indicated the question of whether or not Republican control of the Senate is really up for grabs in November could sway voters.

He said he hoped both Blackburn and Bredesen would campaign on taking a national leadership role, like many past and present Tennessee statewide elected officials.

“There’s something in the water in Tennessee,” Corker said of the kind of lawmakers elected in his home state, who tend to have a significant national profile. Corker said he was leaving himself off the list, though by most estimation he deserves to make the list as well.

“From Howard Baker to today … Al Gore, Fred Thompson, Bill Frist, Lamar Alexander,” he said. “We’ve had senators that generally speaking have been statesmen.”

“I hope both of them will aspire to be that,” Corker said.

Toward the end of the breakfast, Corker was asked about what he plans to do with his own campaign war chest, which still has about $6 million in the bank, and he said he had not given it any thought while focused on his work on Capitol Hill and as a chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee for the rest of the year.

Watch: Politics and Nominations Abound as the Senate Returns to Washington

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