Tennessee's Corker won't rule out presidential bid

August 13, 2014 - 3:05 PM

LAWRENCEBURG, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker said Wednesday he isn't ruling out joining the field of Republicans running for president in 2016, but any decision would wait until next year.

If Corker joined the race, he would face fellow Republicans with much higher national profiles. He also hasn't taken any clear steps to organize, fundraise or make appearances in early primary states — typically the first signs of a potential campaign testing its reception.

Corker, too, would have to mend ties with the GOP's arch-conservatives, who could be uneasy over Corker's reputation to work alongside Democrats on fiscal issues.

"There are times when I do wish I could have the kind of impact and create the kind of change and have the kind of vision for our country that think so many people here in Tennessee would like to see happen," he said during a chamber of commerce appearance in Lawrenceburg, about 70 miles south of Nashville.

The senator, who is two years into his second term, said running for president would be a tough sell to his wife, Elizabeth, who has remained in Chattanooga while he has served in Washington and "loves her anonymity." He said she may be wary of the intense media attention and scrutiny.

He cited fatigue from a recent trip to Southeast Asia for what he called "a stream of consciousness" response to whether he would run for president.

"I'll probably be ridiculed when I get into the car," said Corker, the top Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee.

His latest comments appeared to strengthen a hint last month. In an MSNBC interview, Corker suggested the next Republican presidential nominee should be a problem-solver.

"I've never looked at myself as having to be that person," he said. "Who knows what happens down the road?"

Corker's willingness to work across the aisle with Democrats has not always sat well with the conservative base of the GOP.

Following his election in 2006, Corker became deeply involved in negotiations on the auto bailout and financial regulation, bringing the perspective of a multimillionaire businessman and a former mayor to talks with Democrats and the White House.

In June, Corker was the top Republican sponsor of a bipartisan Senate proposal to raise federal gasoline and diesel taxes for the first time in more than two decades to pay for highway and transit programs.

Corker made his fortune as the head of a construction company he founded, and has sometimes chafed at trying to craft deals and consensus in the Senate. The presidency, he said, would offer more direct control over his vision.

"I will say that the order of magnitude of the impact one can have in Washington is vastly different for a senator, versus being the president," he said. "It's not even in the same spectrum."

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Associated Press writer Steve Peoples in Washington contributed to this report.