Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) continued his recent history of publicly undermining President Trump this week, allowing himself on Tuesday to be portrayed as “speechless” over President Trump’s recent tweets about the country of Qatar.
“President Trump set off a firestorm Tuesday when he conducted diplomacy-by-tweet, with key lawmakers stunned at the president’s flippant approach to a growing Middle East crisis and even the Pentagon saying it couldn’t explain the president’s comments,” the Hill reported:
Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was left stunned and speechless when told by reporters of Trump’s tweets.
Told by a reporter that Trump accused Qatar of being a state sponsor of terrorism, Corker responded, in a notably lower register, “The president?”
Reporters caught Corker a few hours after Trump’s morning tweets, in which he took credit for the decision by Saudi Arabia and several other Arab countries to cut off ties with Qatar, an ally that is home to a large base with as many as 10,000 U.S. military personnel.
“During my recent trip to the Middle East I stated that there can no longer be funding of Radical Ideology. Leaders pointed to Qatar – look!” Trump tweeted Tuesday.
“So good to see the Saudi Arabia visit with the King and 50 countries already paying off. They said they would take a hard line on funding …. extremism, and all reference was pointing to Qatar. Perhaps this will be the beginning of the end to the horror of terrorism!” he continued later.
The tweets were a huge surprise given that a day earlier, top U.S. officials had sought to downplay the dispute.
One day after Corker’s latest comments critical of President Trump were reported by The Hill, The Tennessee Star released a poll that shows likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee are not pleased with his penchant for publicly undermining the president.
When asked “As of now, do you think Bob Corker deserves re-election or is it time to give someone else a chance? ” only 41.1 percent of likely Republican primary voters in Tennessee said he “deserves re-election.”
An equal number, 41.6 percent, said “give someone else a chance.” . .
When asked “Senator Bob Corker recently said President Trump is ‘out of control’ and the ‘White House is in a downward spiral.’ Do you agree or disagree with Senator Corker?” only 20 percent of likely Tennessee GOP primary voters agreed. A huge 76 percent disagreed.
His criticism of President Trump appears to have hurt Corker badly among Tennessee’s Republican primary voters.
When asked “Based upon Senator Corker’s comments about President Trump, are you more likely or less likely to vote for him, or do his comments make no difference?” a full 55 percent of likely Tennessee GOP primary voters said they were “less likely to vote for him.” Only 11 percent said they were “more likely to vote for him.”
Thirty-three percent said his comments made no difference.
“Senator Corker is well known and has high name recognition, so the opportunity to change his image among voters, particularly among conservative Republicans, is pretty limited,” media consultant Gill told The Star.
“The intense support for Trump among GOP primary voters is another challenge for Corker, particularly in view of the critical comments he has directed at the President. If Trump retains the current level of support among Tennessee Republican voters, or even higher, that doesn’t bode well for an establishment type politician. In fact, the negative response to Corker’s comments about Trump’s administration being in a ‘downward spiral’ make it clear that Trump supporters have little tolerance for attacks on him by fellow Republicans,” Gill said.
Reporters in Washington were eager to paint Corker as someone caught unaware by President Trump’s actions, and he was more than ready to allow himself to be portrayed that way.
“No one appeared more stunned than Corker, however, who had a blank look for about 10 seconds when he was told the president had posted the tweets about Qatar on Tuesday morning,” The Hill reported:
“I, um, I want to go back and see specifically what he has said,” Corker finally said. A reporter later showed the chairman the presidential tweets on her phone, prompting him to shake his head.
“Our position generally as a nation has been that these things ebb and flow and they come up from time to time, but we work with all of the countries,” Corker said.
Back home in Tennessee, however, as likely Republican primary voters expressed their unhappiness with Corker’s approach to President Trump in The Tennessee Star Poll, a number of elected Republican officials began contemplating a challenge to Corker in the 2018 primary.
One result of The Tennessee Star Poll is particularly noteworthy. A theoretical matchup between Corker in Rep. Marsha Blackburn showed the two in a statistical tie. Blackburn has given no indication she intends to challenge Corker.
Others, however, have become more vocal in their criticisms of Corker.
On Friday, State Rep. Andy Holt (R-Dresden) was the first to publicly state he was considering a conservative challenge to Corker, but he is not the only one thinking about it, sources tell The Star.
On Monday, The Star will report on a number of potential challengers to Senator Corker in the 2018 Tennessee Republican primary for the U.S. Senate.