Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), the front-running candidate for U.S. Senate in Tennessee, told Breitbart News on Thursday that even if Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) comes out of retirement and attempts to run for re-election to the U.S. Senate seat he currently holds, she is going nowhere.
“No,” Blackburn said when asked if Corker changing his mind would change hers. “I have made my decision. I made my decision to get in the race and I am in the race to stay. We are running well, and I plan to win.”
Corker, this past week, floated the potential of changing his plans to retire at the end of this term and running again for the seat he currently holds.
“In recent days, people across Tennessee have reached out to Senator Corker with concerns about the outcome of this election because they believe it could determine control of the Senate and the future of our agenda,” Corker spokesman Micah Johnson said, per the New York Times.
Corker announced his plans to retire last September after significant revelations came out about his personal finances amid his role in pushing Trump to back former, interim appointed Sen. Luther Strange in Alabama. Strange, who could not win an election statewide for the U.S. Senate, failed miserably in the GOP primary runoff despite backing from Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell–losing to Judge Roy Moore, who went on to lose the general election to Democratic Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).
If Trump had not taken Corker’s advice and backed Strange in the first round of voting, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL) may have emerged as the eventual GOP nominee and would likely have defeated Jones in the general election–rather than having the wild ride that happened with Moore as the GOP nominee.
Now, however, months later, Corker is openly reconsidering his decision to step aside amid his failures. And Corker, per this New York Times report quoting his staff as saying he is reconsidering retirement, has failed to achieve support from President Donald Trump–who has instead put his support behind Blackburn.
“Instead, in a telephone conversation last week, Mr. Trump offered encouragement to Representative Marsha Blackburn, a conservative lawmaker and White House ally who has emerged as the favorite to win the Republican nomination for Mr. Corker’s seat, according to three Republicans familiar with the call,” the Times‘ Jonathan Martin wrote, adding that Trump has reviewed polling that demonstrates Corker cannot beat Blackburn easily.
Polling shows that Blackburn towers over Corker in a potential match-up, and Blackburn also dwarfs her only competitor right now in the Senate primary, former Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-TN). The Senate Conservatives Fund (SCF) poll shows Blackburn at 49 percent and Corker down at just 26 percent, while Fincher lags in single digits at nine percent. That 23-percent lead is a safe one for Blackburn, as the survey’s margin of error is just four percent.
“If Mr. Trump does not change course, his silence could effectively doom any hopes Mr. Corker has for seeking a third term,” the Times’ Martin wrote. “The president is highly popular among Tennessee Republicans and may be the only person who could reverse Mr. Corker’s standing with primary voters, who have soured on him since he portrayed Mr. Trump as a juvenile in need of day care, whose instability may push the country into World War III.”
What’s more, Martin reports, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has “rebuffed” Corker by telling him he must win back Trump if he is going to re-enter the race. So Corker and “some of his Senate allies are aggressively working to win over the White House, embarking on what one West Wing official described as a sudden charm offensive,” per Martin. “The senator has avoided any criticism of Mr. Trump in recent weeks and on Monday met with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter,” Martin added.
For her part, Blackburn is confident in her chances at success in the Volunteer State.
“We’re working hard. We’ve got a race going. We’re going to win it. We’re very excited about it,” Blackburn told Breitbart News on Thursday afternoon.
Blackburn is also ready for the general election, where she is likely to face former Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen—a Democrat.
“What Tennesseans want is a true conservative in the U.S. Senate who is going to support the president’s agenda and is going to take action to make the Senate majority act like the majority and who is going to be a force for positive conservative change so we can get the president’s agenda to his desk so it can get signed into law,” Blackburn said when asked to draw a contrast between herself and Democrat Bredesen.
Blackburn, in her Thursday afternoon Breitbart News interview, also said that the federal government needs to get spending under control. In the wake of the $300 billion spending increase budget that just passed, Blackburn is calling for entitlement reform and zero-based budgeting in the federal government.
“I think one of the things that we can do is begin to look at what is happening with entitlements,” Blackburn said. “We have to do some things on entitlement reform, and that is one of the things I hear from constituents in Tennessee. I will tell you, by the way, this race is all about the people of Tennessee—it’s not about the pundits or the Senate decide who represents them, it’s about having the people of Tennessee decide who sits in that seat and represents them. They want to see spending under control. They want to see money spent wisely. And, one of the things that we hear from them when it comes from how to deal with this budget is ridding waste, fraud, and abuse and looking for efficiencies in the mandatory or entitlement side of the spending. I think one of the ways we can begin to bend this curve of what it costs is to send Medicaid back to the states and let our states handle Medicaid.”
Blackburn also said that Congress should dig in and audit, line by line, every dollar that the federal government spends.
“When I chaired the Republican Platform Committee for the 2012 convention, I inserted in the platform that we as a party had to have an audit of the Fed,” Blackburn said. “If we could change the budgeting process to where we work from a zero-based budgeting premise, rather than a baseline premise, that would force every agency back to dollar one every single year. Zero-based budgeting works. It works in our states. It works in county governments, city governments, so that is a change that we need to make.”
On immigration and the unlawful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) Barack Obama-era executive amnesty legislative replacement, Blackburn backed legislation from House Judiciary Committee chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA) and House Homeland Security Committee chairman Rep. Mike McCaul (R-TX).
“First of all, I think we have to say no amnesty,” Blackburn said when asked what to do about immigration. “Second, we have to say nobody can get in front of the queue—get in front of the process of people who are coming in legally and get in front of the queue and jump in front of them. That is not right and it’s not fair. Third, I support the Goodlatte-McCaul approach where we build the wall, we end the diversity lottery, we end chain migration, we secure that southern border, we end illegal entry of all types whether it is drugs or human trafficking or label trafficking or sex trafficking or gangs. Secure that border. Put more resources on the border. New agents, new officers, and then deal with the situation with the DREAMers so that they have a certainty with their status.”
The Goodlatte-McCaul bill also includes E-Verify, something Blackburn said is important “so that employers have that responsibility to do that verification process and know that the people coming to them are in the country legally and second that they are who they say they are.”