In a sharp contrast to the grueling, down-to-the-wire campaign during his last run for statewide office, Sen. Bob Corker is off on a weeklong trip to the Middle East — just a month before voters decide whether to re-elect him.
“I’ve said all along that my campaign is going to be my service in the Senate,” the Republican told reporters when asked whether the trip was an indication he takes for granted a win over disavowed Democratic nominee Mark Clayton and other candidates.
In a speech before talking with reporters, Corker told the Nashville Chamber of Commerce that “I’m likely to be the lead Republican on foreign relations issues” when the Senate meets next year. He serves on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the trip to the Middle East will be aimed at gathering insight into the slaying of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans in Libya, Corker indicated.
“Maybe when I’ve returned from the Middle East I’ll have a better sense of what’s happened,” he said. “And it may just be that Libya has turned into a failed state and maybe it’s just that that the administration doesn’t want to discuss.”
Corker said security rules prevent him from giving specifics of the trip in advance, including whether Libya would be among countries visited.
The senator said he has visited 47 countries since being elected in 2006 and expects to finish reading former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s memoir while on the plane trip to the Mideast.
While learning about other nations and America’s relations with them, Corker apparently has not paid rapt attention to political developments in his home state. A member of the audience at the Nashville speech asked his views on laws requiring a photo ID for voting.
“I don’t even know what the voter ID law is in Tennessee,” replied Corker, who asked state Rep. Jim Gotto, R-Nashville, seated nearby, to tell him. Gotto explained that Tennessee requires a photo ID for voting, then Corker declined a detailed answer to the question, saying it was a state issue.
“Fortunately, it’s not in my jurisdiction,” he said. “Your groups can decide whether you like it or not.”
Corker also recalled as “the worst day of my life to get up and talk to folks, knowing I was going to let them down” an October occasion in 2006 when then-President George W. Bush traveled to Memphis to speak at a fundraiser for him while an internal campaign poll showed him losing the Senate race to then-Congressman Harold Ford Jr. Of course, he eventually went on to defeat Ford by about 50,000 votes out of more than 1.8 million cast.
He made the comment after referring to reports showing Republican Mitt Romney trailing President Barack Obama in polls.