Bob Corker (AP/Alex Brandon)

Bob Corker's un-retirement tells us that Donald Trump is the GOP's kingmaker

Corker is considering backing out of his retirement, but first he must kiss and make up with the president


Charlie May
February 14, 2018 8:10PM (UTC)

Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., is now trying to mend his soured relationship with President Donald Trump as he reconsiders his decision to retire from office and gear up for reelection in 2018.

Last September Corker announced he would not seek another term in office, but sources close to the senator have indicated he's entertaining the idea of running again in November, The New York Times reported.

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But the battle won't be easy for Corker. He has to win over Trump, who he repeatedly insulted in the wake of his retirement announcement. In October, Corker called the White House a daycare center and said that Trump was unstable and needed to be monitored so he wouldn't push the country into further war. Ironically enough, that spat over Twitter was about Corker begging Trump for a reelection endorsement, which is what he now must do.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., fearing a civil war within the GOP, has also told Corker that he's not allowed to run in the race unless Trump endorses him. The outlook doesn't appear strong for Corker, because even though he recently met with Ivanka Trump and his allies in the Senate are aggressively lobbying the White House on his behalf, Trump has already begun to look the other way.

The president has instead offered words of encouragement to Rep. Marsha Blackburn, who has been considered the favorite to win the Republican primary for Corker's seat, three Republican sources familiar with the call told the Times. Aides inside the White House have also advised Trump to not mend ties with Corker and "are showing Mr. Trump polling that indicates how steep of a climb Mr. Corker would face in a primary campaign," according to the Times.

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Trump has maintained high approval ratings in Tennessee, which could indicate that he essentially holds the power to lift Corker up, or hang him out to dry.

Regardless of the outcome, Blackburn has vowed that she won't be backing down.

"Marsha Blackburn is not getting out of this race regardless of who gets in," Blackburn's chief strategist, Ward Baker, told the Times.

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In the end, the loser in this situation still appears to be Corker. While he has not attacked Trump in recent weeks, their feud was public, messy and personal. Now, fearing that the seat may become lost to a Democrat, the GOP is contingent on a decision from Trump, and Corker looks like a fool who spoke to soon and came to regret it.

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Charlie May

Charlie May is a news writer at Salon. You can find him on Twitter at @charliejmay

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