Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) ended two weeks of media speculation he created when he floated the idea that he was having “second thoughts” about not running for re-election when his chief of staff told Politico the frequent critic of President Trump has decided he will not seek a third term in the U.S. Senate.
Corker’s decision clears the way for Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) to secure the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat in Tennessee he currently occupies. It also sets up a general election battle between Blackburn and former Gov. Phil Bredesen, who has no opposition in the Democratic primary.
“He’s always believed and served as though he were only going to be in the Senate for two terms,” Corker’s chief of staff Todd Womack told Politico on Tuesday.
“And he was willing to listen to folks but he really believes the decision he made in September was the right one and is going to be leaving the Senate at the end of the year,” Womack added.
Corker’s decision came a little more than a month before the April 5 filing deadline for the U.S. Senate race in Tennessee.
“I want to thank Senator Corker for his dedicated service on behalf of Tennessee families. Now, we can unify the Republican party and focus on defeating Democrat Phil Bredesen in November,” Blackburn said after learning of Corker’s decision, Fox News reported.
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), who had been encouraging Corker to get back in the race, reached out to Blackburn after news of Corker’s decision broke.
“I invited Marsha Blackburn to breakfast this morning. We had a good discussion about a variety of issues that we both care about and how we might work together to make the Senate a more effective institution,” Alexander said in a statement, the Post reported.
“We spent the last few days doing our due diligence and a clear path for reelection was laid out,” Womack said in a written statement released Tuesday morning that announced Corker’s decision, the Washington Post reported.
Few people outside of Corker’s inner circle, however, believed that to be an accurate description of the current political landscape in Tennessee.
Three recent polls all showed Blackburn with big leads over Corker–ranging from 19 percent to 29 percent–in a potential matchup in the August GOP primary.
Corker had originally announced that he would not seek a third term in the U.S. Senate on September 26. Blackburn announced her candidacy the following month.