Sen. Corker: No talk of Tea Party challenge back home

Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), who was derided as "Bailout Bob" by one Tea Party group earlier this year, says he sees no sign of a Tea Party-backed primary challenge to him in 2012. 

"Much of that talk emanates from Washington, but back home I don't hear so much talk in that way," Corker told The Ballot Box of the potential for Tea Party activists gunning for him in a Republican primary in 2012.

The first-term senator said, "Back home the numbers indicate that I'm more popular among Tea Party folks than I am even with Republicans."   

Corker earned the scorn of some Tea Party groups during his work with Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on the financial reform bill, and is a rumored target largely thanks to his vote in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP).

Earlier this year, RedState's Erick Erickson included Corker on a list of Republican senators who might make good primary targets for the Tea Party movement in 2012.  

But Corker is talking tough on the deficit and already labeling the upcoming vote on increasing the debt ceiling "the next line in the sand."

Corker said he's planning on recruiting a group of senators who will demand tax and spending reforms before agreeing to a vote in favor of increasing the debt ceiling. 

"It seems to me that what we need to do is use this next episode as the moment in time that all of us come together to reduce spending," said Corker, who noted that he reluctantly went along with President Obama's tax-cut compromise.  

The senator also said he's confident that Tea Party backers will take notice of his focus on curbing spending and reducing the deficit in the Senate.

"I look at the issue the Tea Party members talk most about, which is spending — I couldn't agree more with them, nor could I focus more on that issue," said Corker.