By Patricia Zengerle
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the influential Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said on Monday he had not yet decided whether he would run for re-election to a third Senate term in 2018.
"While we are in a strong position, I am still contemplating the future and will make a decision at the appropriate time," Corker, 65, said in a statement.
"I think everyone in the Volunteer State knows, as they did in 2012, that running for re-election has never been an automatic for me," he said.
However, Corker will be ready to run if he decides to go ahead. A source with direct knowledge said he has $7.5 million in cash on hand for the race.
A former mayor of Chattanooga and successful businessman, Corker is expected to win easily if he does run in the solidly Republican state.
Aides to the senator had said for some time that he had not yet decided whether to run. He had ruled out talk that he might run for governor of Tennessee earlier this year, and the issue arose again last month when President Donald Trump said on Twitter that Corker was "constantly asking" him whether or not he should seek re-election.
Trump had considered Corker as a potential vice presidential running mate or secretary of state, and he has worked closely with the administration. But he has broken with the Republican president on some issues.
Trump issued his tweet after Corker responded to Trump's comments about a neo-Nazi white supremacist rally by saying Trump had not yet demonstrated the stability or some competence to be successful.
The president was broadly criticized for his reaction to the rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, including his observation that there were good people on both sides.
Corker issued his statement after CNN reported on Monday on an interview with him last week in which he discussed possibly ending his Senate career.
A fiscal conservative, Corker is seen as a pragmatist willing to work with Democrats on a range of issues including foreign affairs but also domestic policy matters such as immigration.
(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)