GOP Senators Praise Corker as Potential Trump VP

GOP Senators Praise Corker as Potential Trump VP
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Sen. Bob Corker met Monday with presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump amid rumors the Tennessee lawmaker is on a list of possible Trump running mates, and multiple Senate Republicans said Corker would be a smart choice to join the campaign.

The second-term senator checks off many of the boxes Trump has said he would want in a VP: an elected official with a career in government who can help him form relationships and get legislation through Congress. Corker has been in the Senate since 2006 and, as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, would bring foreign policy experience to the campaign, something several of his colleagues said would be a real benefit to Trump. 

“Chairman Corker is a great guy,” said Sen. Tom Tillis of North Carolina. “He’s a good, balanced legislator. He enjoyed producing results. He’s got a great bipartisan record. Well-liked by the conference and by people in both conferences, so I can see why he’d be on the short list."

Corker and Trump met in the nominee’s Manhattan office Monday morning, along with Corker’s chief of staff and Trump’s top adviser, Paul Manafort. Corker said they talked about both foreign and domestic policy issues, and that it was a good opportunity for him to get a better understanding of where Trump stands. Corker had praised Trump’s major foreign policy address last month and the two have spoken on the phone, but Monday was their first meeting in person.

“I had never met him before so it was a good opportunity to get a much better sense of who he is and his thought process relative to some issues that are very important to me, and I was glad to be able to do it and appreciated it very much,” Corker told reporters in the Senate later in the day. “…It’s something that helps me understand where he’s going and helped us to know each other a little bit better on those fronts."

Corker has not denied interest in potentially being a running mate, nor has he said he would take the position if offered. Instead, he has repeatedly said that he has no reason to believe he’s being considered, and he stuck to a similar line after Monday’s meeting.

“I’m not even sure that as a campaign they’ve begun to think about things like that,” Corker said. “As a matter of fact, I would guess they haven’t. It’s just, to conjecture about things that you don’t even think are serious is not an appropriate thing to do."

Still, several of the former Chattanooga mayor’s colleagues believe he would be a positive addition to the campaign. Sen. Jeff Flake, who serves on Corker’s committee and who has been one of Trump’s biggest critics in the upper chamber, praised Corker as a potentially smart pick.  

“He would be a good addition,” Flake told RealClearPolitics. “Corker’s great. It would be nice to get some good foreign policy chops there."

Sen. Steve Daines of Montana agreed that Corker’s foreign policy experience would be a plus  for Trump, who has been at odds with some Republican orthodoxy.

“One of the most important responsibilities of the president is commander-in-chief, and in this dangerous world that we live in, it’s going to be important that Donald Trump surrounds himself with men and women that have the right depth in foreign affairs, and Bob Corker could be one of those,” Daines said.

Corker, for his part, said he came away from the meeting with a clearer understanding of Trump’s foreign policy philosophy, defining it as “realism.”

“It’s a little bit more of a focus on core national interests,” he explained. “Less of a highly active role, but one where America leads.”

Corker pointed out several areas where he agrees with Trump on foreign affairs, including criticism of the Obama administration’s policies in Libya and Egypt and opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement. Corker also pointed out areas where he and his party’s nominee disagree. Earlier in the campaign, for example, Trump talked about allowing nations such as Japan and South Korea to have nuclear weapons rather than rely on the U.S. arsenal as a deterrent. Corker cited his own work on non-proliferation and said that is a point of disagreement, though it didn’t come up during their meeting.

As far as selecting a running mate, however, there are concerns beyond complementary policy or government experience. North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr, who chairs the Intelligence Committee and is running for re-election this year, pointed out that Trump is likely to win Corker’s state of Tennessee in the fall; selecting someone from a swing state could expand the GOP’s Electoral College map.

Still, Burr added that until Trump actually makes his selection, it’s hard to predict what direction he will go.

“If [Trump] makes a conventional pick, it’s the first conventional thing he’s done in the race,” Burr said. “I think it would be surprising, but I think more surprising would be if in fact he suggested that anytime soon that he knew who it was going to be. I just don’t think they’re anywhere close to making that decision and there’s no reason to do it prior to the convention."

James Arkin is a congressional reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at jarkin@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @JamesArkin.

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