WASHINGTON -- A report over the weekend that Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn might launch a 2016 Republican presidential bid spurred a non-denial denial from her campaign staff.
The website RealClearPolitics.com, quoting an unnamed Blackburn aide, said Blackburn was considering a presidential candidacy and had gone to New Hampshire to "test the waters."
"If there's a door to kick down, she's willing to kick it down," the unnamed Blackburn aide reportedly told the website.
Blackburn, R-Brentwood, appeared this weekend at a New Hampshire Republican rally hosted by the groups Citizens United and Americans for Prosperity. The latter is associated with oil billionaires Charles and David Koch.
"These are the kinds of events you go to test the waters, and see what the reaction is," the Blackburn aide was quoted as saying.
Among Republicans, Blackburn would be the first woman known to be considering a run.
However, according to another website, BusinessInsider.com, Blackburn denied the report while she was in the Granite State.
"Not at all. No. No. I am running for re-election in Tennessee," she told the business site about mulling a presidential candidacy.
Asked if there was anything that could change her stance, she said: "Probably not. Goodness, no."
But comments from her congressional campaign staff sounded less definite.
In advance of the New Hampshire appearance, Blackburn campaign spokesperson Darcy Anderson said in a statement that the representative wasn't going there to "test anything."
But the Blackburn spokesman also said, "We don't need any tests to tell us that the country is not on the right path."
Further, Anderson said Blackburn went to New Hampshire "talk about freedom, liberty, Gibson guitars, and keeping the government out of our wallets and emails. She is running to represent the people of the Tennessee 7th Congressional district. She is a proven legislator and a national thought leader who will talk about the right path for our country."
Republican strategist John Weaver, who worked in Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain's 2008 race, said of Blackburn: "New Hampshire is the place people usually go to deny that they are running."
Weaver added: "It's going to be a wide-open race. There have been others with less name ID than her who have gone on to do well."
Ferrel Guillory, political analyst at the University of North Carolina, said he doesn't find the possibility of a Blackburn presidential run far-fetched at all.
"If (Minnesota Republican Rep.) Michele Bachmann and (former Alaska governor) Sarah Palin can run for president, Marsha Blackburn certainly can," Guillory said.
Bachmann had a short-lived candidacy for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. Palin, the Republican vice presidential nominee in 2008, was frequently mentioned as a possible 2012 candidate but never jumped into the race.
One of Blackburn's big advantages, Guillory said, is that "she's in tune with the Republican constituency in the South" and South Carolina has become the early primary that sorts the GOP field. Blackburn grew up in Mississippi and graduated from Mississippi State University.
But questions remain, Guillory said, about her ability to raise money on a national scale.
"If she wants to run, she better get in training now," Guillory said.
Erick Erickson, founder of the conservative website RedState.com, said Blackburn would stand out in the field as a woman and as a member of the U.S. House. But House members have a hard time gaining "national stature," he said, adding, "I think she's a great congresswoman."
According to RealClearPolitics.com, the unnamed Blackburn aide said: "Whenever there's been a need for leadership or someone to get out there and fight the fight, she's always been the first in line and she's not afraid of it. She's not afraid to go toe to toe with anybody."
In her speech to the New Hampshire rally, Blackburn said: "Barack Obama promised that he was going to rein in executive power. But what we got was an imperial president who plays like he's the king and goes out and does what he wants to do by executive fiat."
She said Obama represents "a centralized government that is bearing down on free people. It is what our founders fought against."