In Tennessee, Sen. Bob Corker (R) is retiring this year, and given the Volunteer State's political leanings, it was generally assumed Corker's "red" seat would stay that way. In practice, however, it's a little more complicated than that.
To the disappointment of the Republican establishment, the Republican nominee in this race will be Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R), a right-wing congresswoman who's earned a reputation as something of an extremist, even by contemporary GOP standards. Democrats, meanwhile, have rallied behind former Gov. Phil Bredesen (D), who's already won two statewide races in Tennessee.
Corker is formally backing his party's candidate, but he raised a few eyebrows recently when he praised Bredesen, touted the former governor's "crossover appeal," and vowed not to campaign against him during the campaign. Corker added, in reference to Bredesen, that the Tennessee Democrat was "a very good mayor, a very good governor, [and] a very good business person."
Yesterday, Corker was offered an opportunity to offer comparable praise for his party's candidate. It didn't go well.
[CNN's Dana Bash] attempted to get Corker to explain why anyone ought to vote for Blackburn. Despite his Twitter endorsement, Corker had a little trouble. The best he could do was suggest that a vote for Blackburn could be critical to the GOP retaining control of the Senate and of course, re-electing McConnell as Senate Majority Leader.
The retiring senator, who seemed determined not to mention Blackburn's name out loud -- repeatedly referring to her only as his party's "nominee" -- was told that his support for the congresswoman didn't sound like "a ringing endorsement."
If you watch the clip, note that Corker seemed to be at a loss for words for several seconds, before eventually saying, "I'm supporting the nominee. I have worked with the nominee for some time. And I don't know what else to say."
In other words, asked to explain why Marsha Blackburn would be a good U.S. senator, the Republican incumbent couldn't think of a reason -- and seemed reluctant to even say her name.