03:54 - Source: CNN
Sen. Bob Corker's "Hamlet" routine shaking up a key 2018 race

Story highlights

Rep. Marsha Blackburn is gaining endorsements from some of Sen. Bob Corker's Senate colleagues

There are two very different schools of thought on how the State Department should handle North Korea

CNN —  

Here are the stories our DC insiders are talking about in this week’s “Inside Politics” forecast, where you get a glimpse of tomorrow’s headlines today.

1) Blackburn and Corker’s awkward Senate tango

It was an awkward night at an awkward time in Tennessee Republican politics. Both Sen. Bob Corker and Rep. Marsha Blackburn attended a GOP dinner Saturday night in Memphis, but the pair appeared to be in no mood to chat.

Blackburn is a candidate for Corker’s Senate seat. Corker, who announced plans last fall to retire, is now rethinking his decision and may seek re-election.

That complicates things as Blackburn travels the state looking to build new relationships beyond her congressional district. Some old-guard Tennessee Republicans find her to be too conservative and are urging Corker to run again.

There was speculation that the senator might clear things up this weekend, but Corker had nothing new to say about the 2018 Senate race and declined an opportunity to endorse Blackburn.

Her team is beyond frustrated with what they view as Corker’s indecisive “Hamlet” routine.

Blackburn took a White House meeting recently, perhaps to send a signal that President Trump is on her side. Allies also released a poll showing her running well ahead of Corker in a hypothetical primary matchup, and leading in a fall matchup against the likely Democratic candidate.

None of that brought Corker’s rethinking to a conclusion. And CNN is told Team Blackburn is looking for ways to send a message that Corker shouldn’t run. Among them, several informed Republican sources say, is winning endorsement commitments from at least a half dozen of Corker’s GOP Senate colleagues.

Those commitments are being kept private for now, but one option was to roll them out as a response if Corker had said this weekend he was inclined to jump back in the race.

But Corker remained mum. So this drama is to be continued.

2) Will governors influence Trump on gun control?

The country’s governors are in Washington for a meeting with President Trump during this week’s National Governors Association conference. Trump will formally greet them at a reception tonight.

Bloomberg’s Margaret Talev explains how the governors could shape Trump’s views on a number of issues.

“Republican governors are outnumbering Democrat governors about two to one. All of them are going to be really important in potentially influencing President Trump over the next couple days,” Talev says.

“Gun control will be very high on the agenda, although so will health care and some of the other implementation things. It may be those Republican governors who give President Trump some of the signals he really needs to hear as the White House prepares to roll out its approach on everything from background checks to age limits (on purchasing firearms).”

3) A State Department divide on North Korea

The Trump administration imposed new sanctions on North Korea this past week. The US has been talking about these measures for awhile, which are significant because they target importing and exporting of coal from North Korea. That’s a big part of funding for the North Korean regime.

As New York Times’ Julie Hirschfeld Davis tells us, the US is torn between diplomacy and talking a tougher line.

“They’re not sanctions directly on the nuclear operation, but the question now is, how far will the Trump administration go in enforcing these. Are they going to be boarding ships? That’s a military operation, essentially,” Davis explains.

“There have been a lot of conflicting messages coming from the administration, I’m told in part because there’s still a divide between folks at the State Department that really want to pursue a diplomatic channel and folks at the National Security Council who really are looking more toward a military solution.”

4) Keeping up with Kasich

It’s almost March, and we are now less than two years from the 2020 primaries. Political insiders are keeping their eyes on John Kasich’s moves.

As Weekly Standard’s John McCormack reports, the Ohio governor may make another presidential run.

“At least nine people close to Kasich said he’s laying the groundwork. Just last week, Kasich came out strongly against weapons such as the AR-15,” McCormack says. “I thought that was the strongest indication yet that he is considering an independent run, but a source close to Kasich tells me he definitely wants to keep both of his options open.”

5) CPAC’s shocking moment

Last week’s CPAC’s conference was pretty friendly territory for Republicans and President Trump. But on Saturday many in the crowd were startled when a panelist voiced her criticism of Trump – and for conservatives who choose to stand by him.

Bloomberg’s Sahil Kapur explains.

“Mona Charen stunned the crowd by ripping into conservatives as hypocrites for standing by President Trump as he brags about his infidelities and as he quote, ‘brags about mistreating women and because he happens to have an R by his name, we don’t complain,’” Kapur says. “She also ripped into Republicans who supported (Alabama Senate candidate) Roy Moore, who she described as a credibly accused child molester.”