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Corker Reconsiders Retirement, but He Must Win Over Trump to Do It

And without Mr. Trump’s direct intervention, Ms. Blackburn is highly unlikely to bow to Mr. Corker.

“Marsha Blackburn is not getting out of this race regardless of who gets in,” said Ward Baker, the Nashville-area lawmaker’s chief strategist.

Further, Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the majority leader, has rebuffed Mr. Corker by telling him that he must secure the president’s support to re-enter the race, according to Republicans familiar with the conversation, a rare act of political deference that suggests he is uneasy about driving Ms. Blackburn out of the primary race.

But Mr. 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. The senator has avoided any criticism of Mr. Trump in recent weeks and on Monday met with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter.

Mr. Trump’s political advisers, getting wind of the meeting, scrambled to brief Ms. Trump and her own staff about Mr. Corker’s renewed interest in running again and his desire for the president’s support, according to a Republican official. An aide to Mr. Corker said Ms. Trump requested the meeting.

More broadly, Mr. Corker’s advisers say he and Mr. Trump have patched up their relationship and the senator is simply hearing out those who would like him to remain in the Senate, a decision he technically does not have to make until Tennessee’s filing deadline in early April.

“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,” said Micah Johnson, Mr. Corker’s spokeswoman.

Photo

Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee at the Republican National Convention in 2016 in Cleveland.

Credit
Jim Young/Reuters

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