Robert Corker, Senator for Tennessee, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee and a vocal critic of Donald Trump, has today announced that he will not seek re-election in 2018 and that he will be retiring at the end of his second term. His retirement comes soon after the GOP leadership announced that they would not seek another vote on the repeal of Obamacare after three Republican senators came out against the bill, depriving the GOP of the necessary majority needed to pass the new repeal bill.
Bob Corker has been weighing up the possibility of seeking re-election in the 2018 mid-term elections with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging Corker to seek re-election. His announcement follows a wave of retirement from other Republican who have hinted that they are no longer willing or able to defend Donald Trump’s actions to the moderate wing of the party. Although Corker was once considered an ally of Donald Trump and was widely tipped to be nominated for Secretary of State, he became a vocal critic of the President over the past few months starting with the series of scandals in May and slamming Trump’s inadequate response to the protests in Charlottesville.
Corker’s concerns over his re-election prospects appear to be well-founded as several polls indicated that he would be vulnerable to a Republican primary challenger. The tense primary election in Alabama, highlighting the growing splits within the Republican party and its base, is causing concern since the GOP fear a backlash over the lack of legislative achievements and the divisive behavior of President Trump.
However, Corker’s retirement may also cause the Republicans to lose the state of Tennessee to the Democrats in a possible upset in 2018. Although Tennessee is a solidly Republican state which voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016, the close results in recent elections and the wave of retirements from Republicans may benefit the Democrats who are hoping to provide a significant challenge to the divided Republicans. While Tennessee would be a difficult seat to steal, Democrats have been heartened by rebounding polls including one set that indicates their candidate in Alabama may steal the seat, regardless of which Republican wins in the primaries.
With Bob Corker’s retirement, the GOP is facing the unwelcome prospect of facing accusations of broken promises from their base, an unpredictable and unhelpful President and a growing split between the moderate and the right-wing Republicans, divided over their agenda and vulnerable to a resurgent Democratic Party.