Conservative activists in Tennessee are unhappy with Sen. Bob Corker and prepared to put their money and manpower behind a strong Republican primary challenger if one emerges.
Mark Green, the state senator who was President Trump’s first choice for Army secretary, is their preferred candidate. Green is weighing a 2018 bid, and is the sort of formidable candidate who could clear the field of other Republicans eying the race.
That’s important, because Tennessee’s conservative power brokers, led by wealthy Nashville automobile dealer Lee Beaman, aren’t interested in waging a quixotic battle against Corker. They want to back a winner.
But it also shows just how vulnerable the Senate Foreign Relations chairman could be heading into the midterm. Lingering anti-establishment fervor is driving restlessness with Corker on the Right.
They don’t appreciate his moderate tone, a throwback to an era when Tennessee Republicans preferred genteel statesman in the mold of Howard Baker, Bill Frist and Sen. Lamar Alexander, who barely escaped his own primary in 2014 over a little-known state legislator.
“If a really strong conservative candidate challenges Bob Corker, Lee Beaman would on jump on board with his campaign,” a Tennessee Republican insider familiar with the deep-pocketed GOP donor told the Washington Examiner, on condition of anonymity in order to speak candidly.
Corker, 64, could catch a break in that no obviously strong candidates appear on the radar outside of Green, who withdrew his name from consideration for Army secretary after an uncomfortable spotlight was cast on his past comments about Islam and gender-related issues.
Most Republicans in Tennessee don’t expect Green to run for Senate for this reason — and because he and Corker have a strong personal relationship. Green has not responded to an email requesting comment.
The Corker campaign, which this month will report $6.6 million in cash on hand for the 2018 campaign, said it takes all candidates…