Senators Corker (l) and Alexander
Hours after maverick presidential hopeful Donald Trump’s second straight Republican primary victory, this one in South Carolina, Tennessee’s two GOP Senators, Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, were in the limelight Saturday as featured speakers at the Shelby County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day at the Holiday Inn on Central Avenue. And they had to deal with it.
Both declined to make any direct comment on Trump’s victory, which, among other things, chased out of the race former Florida governor Jeb Bush, a symbol of the national Republican establishment, and opened the way to a serious claim on the GOP’s nomination by Trump himself, an outlier’s outlier and the surprise front-runner among Republicans this year.
“My experience is that Tennesseans didn’t elect me to tell them how to vote,” Alexande said. Both in earlier remarks to reporters and in his remarks introducing colleague Corker as keynoter of the Lincoln Day dinner itself, Alexander stressed the importance of nominating an acceptable conservative so as to ensure that a GOP president, not a Democrat, has the choice of filling the Supreme Court vacancy left vacant by the death of Antonin Scalia.
To win the presidency, a Republican nominee has “got to get a few Democrats and independents:” to vote for him, Alexander said.
And he, like Corker, made a point of pooh-poohing early contests — Iowa and New Hampshire as well as South Carolina — as guides to the matter of who should be nominated. Alexander likened the nomination contest to an NFL season, in which the decision comes down to a final two teams after a long winnowing-out process.
Corker would use a a similar metaphor, comparing the Iowa causes and the New Hampshire primary — and, by implication, to South Cartolina — to “pre-season games” but suggesting that the forthcoming multiple primaries, including Tennessee’s. on Tuesday, March 1, “Super Tuesday,” amounted to a real “Showtime.”
“The citizens of our state have the tremendous opportunity of seeing so much and taking it in, and now we have to decide,” said Corker, who, unlike Alexander, hinted broadly that he would be making his preference public in a matter of days.
Acknowledging that “we’ll be getting some calls tomorrow” from various candidates’ camps — and perhaps from party dignitaries — Corker said he would “have to decide first who I’m going to support,” either by Monday, the last day for early voting in the March 1 primary, or by Tuesday, March 1, itself.
Corker said the ideal candidate would have to demonstrate prowess in three specific ways: a determination to deal with fiscal issues, a plan for dealing with “a growing wealth gap” between tich and poor, and an ability “to lead the world.”
8th DISTRICT CANDIDATES AT WORK —- Attendees at Saturday's annual Republican L:incoln Day dinner at the Central Avenue Holiday Inn had a fair chance of encountering candidates in the 8th District congressional race. Top: George Flinn working tables; Bottom, left: Mayor Jim Strickland is chatted up by candidate Steve Basar and his wife Brenda. Bottom, right: Brian Kelsey has a one-on-one conversation.