Tennessee Senator Bob Corker’s decision not to run for another term in the U.S. Senate has sparked speculation that retired NFL quarterback Peyton Manning will run for the seat. Manning hasn’t said anything about doing so, but he has made moves recently that show a growing interest in politics. He is also a longtime donor to Republican candidates.
The 65-year-old Corker was first elected to the Senate in 2006, after serving as the mayor of Chattanooga. He is the chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was a strong supporter of President Donald Trump. Corker announced that he won’t run again in 2018 on Twitter, surprising many.
REp. Scott DesJarlais told Business Insider that he thinks Manning might consider holding off until 2020 if Senator Lamar Alexander retires, instead of jumping into politics next year.
In March, Fox Sports reported that Manning said at a Las Vegas summit he’s not interested in running for office.
“I don’t know where that came from,” Manning said of the rumors. “Last week I was going to run a team, this week I going to apparently run for Senate, and next week I’ll be an astronaut. … I have no interest in the political world, but would like to continue serving communities.”
Manning hasn’t been vocal about his political views, but here’s what we know about his politics.
1. Manning’s Only Donation During the 2016 Presidential Campaign Was $2,700 to Jeb Bush
According to the Federal Election Committee records, the only donation Manning made during the 2016 presidential election cycle was to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Manning donated the maximum allowed $2,700.00 in August 2015.
After the donation came in, Bush said during a debate that he was rooting for the Denver Broncos to win Super Bowl 50. Of course, the Broncos did win that Super Bowl, defeating the Carolina Panthers.
Open Secrets notes that Manning has donated to several other candidates, all Republicans. During the 2012 presidential campaign, he donated $2,500 twice to Mitt Romeny’s campaign a month before the election. He also donated to Corker’s two senatorial campaigns.
In 2004, Manning donated $2,000 to President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign.
2. Manning Said it Would be ‘Un-American’ to Turn Down an Invitation to Golf With President Trump
In June, Manning was seen golfing with President Donald Trump, which was seen as Manning signaling his own support for Trump. Rather than say he agrees with Trump’s politics, Manning said on Jimmy Kimmel Life that he thought it would be “un-American” to turn down the invitation.
“I heard Arnold Palmer say one time, ‘If the president of the United States ever asks you to play golf, you do it,’” Manning told Kimmel. “It’s a no-brainer. It was a fantastic experience. We rode in the motorcade over [to the course], and I never felt safer playing golf.”
Manning insisted that he would have played golf with a Democratic president if invited and said he also played golf with President George W. Bush.
“If President Obama or President Clinton asked me, I’d be there in a heartbeat,” Manning said. “It was just the experience of playing with the office that was pretty cool to me. And I think it would have been almost un-American to have said no.”
3. Manning Spoke at a GOP, but Focused on ‘Teamwork & Leadership’
Another sign that the 41-year-old Manning is starting to think about a career in politics was his decision to speak at a Republican retreat in Philadelphia in January. Sources told Politico he was going to be there. The event also included speeches from Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.
But once at the retreat, Manning didn’t specifically talk about politics. Instead, a source told Fox Sports that it was more like a “pep talk.”
Manning “told stories and talked about teamwork and leadership,” the source said. He also talked about his time as a prep football player in Louisiana and the University of Tennessee. The Tennessee story was one Manning has told before. While a freshman, he tried to inspire his teammates with a long speech, but his offensive lineman cut him short. “Just call the **** play,” his teammate said.
Members of the press weren’t allowed to see the speech, which was given at a downtown Philadelphia hotel.
4. Manning Is Longtime Friends With Corker, Who Once Issued a Statement to Congratulate Him on His Career
As The Tennessean notes, Manning is longtime friends with Corker. In June, they were seen together at a June fundraiser at Ford’s Theater in Washington, D.C. Corker presented Manning with the Lincoln Medal, notes the Associated Press. Trump was also there and referred to Manning as a friend.
Corker and Manning are such good friends that Corker issued a statement after Manning announced his retirement from the NFL last year.
“Peyton Manning will be remembered as one of the greatest professional athletes in history,” Corker said in March 2016. “I am honored to congratulate him on a legendary football career but perhaps even more proud to call him a friend. While Peyton is best known for his incredible talent on the field, he will always be known in Tennessee as someone who continues to exemplify service, integrity and heart. He is the type of person who makes everyone around him better, and we are proud to call him an adopted son in the Volunteer State. I wish Peyton and Ashley all the best as they begin this next chapter of their lives, and I look forward to seeing him in Chattanooga very soon.”
Since Corker is leaving, this opens the perfect window for Manning to run for office. He wouldn’t have to run against his friend or wait for Senator Lamar Alexander to resign.
5. Trump Said He Has ‘Always Liked’ Peyton Manning & He’s a ‘Very Good Guy’
Although Manning hasn’t talked much about his politics or his view on Trump, Trump has talked repeatedly about Manning. In a February 2016 interview with CBS News, Trump said before the Super Bowl that year that he has “always liked” Manning.
“I very much have always liked Peyton Manning. He is a very good guy. I know him. And he is a very, very good guy. So, I have to go with the person I know and I like,” Trump said, adding “I will stick with Peyton, because he is a very good guy.”
In February 2016, Manning called Trump a “good guy,” adding that he met Trump and “played a round of golf with him a few times out in Tahoe,” notes The Daily Beast.