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Possible Mike Pompeo run for Kansas’ Senate seat fuels state GOP’s hopes

January 25, 2019

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this week left the door open to a Senate run in Kansas in 2020, spurring talk from Republican strategists that he would lock up the seat with ease.

He told Fox News he was focused on his job as the country’s top diplomat and begged off handicapping the developing race back home, but he did say Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has asked him to think about running.

“If Pompeo gets in the race, it’s over,” one Kansas political strategist told The Washington Times.

Republican Kris W. Kobach, Kansas’ former Secretary of State, said he would be surprised if Mr. Pompeo stepped down from his Cabinet position.

“Secretary Pompeo is doing an extraordinary job as secretary of state,” he said. “Indeed, I think he’s one of the most effective secretary of states in our lifetimes.”

The Senate seat is coming open with the looming retirement of GOP Sen. Pat Roberts, and while Kansas leans heavily Republican in national elections, Democrats captured a House seat there in November and a Democrat won the governorship, defeating Mr. Kobach.

A major figure in the immigration enforcement movement, Mr. Kobach is eyeing the Senate race, but Republican leaders wonder whether he could win the seat.

He told The Washington Times that he is “seriously considering” a campaign but said he wouldn’t be swayed by a potential Pompeo bid.

“My decision will be made on a number of factors,” he said. “It’ll be independent of whether Mike runs or not.”

Also reportedly considering a bid are former Gov. Jeff Colyer, who Mr. Kobach defeated in the primary last year, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, and Kansas Treasurer Jake LaTurner.

Mr. Pompeo was in his fourth term in the House representing Kansas when President Trump tapped him to be CIA director in January 2017, and then secretary of state, replacing departed Rex W. Tillerson in April 2018. His former colleagues on Capitol Hill say they’re eager to have him back.

“I can say without equivocation and without qualification, I can conceive of no one who I’d rather work with in the U.S. Senate from the state of Kansas than Mike Pompeo,” Sen. Todd Young, chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, told radio show host Hugh Hewitt.

GOP strategists said should Mr. Pompeo decide to run, there would be virtually no contest.

The mere speculation that he may join the race “has and will continue to have a chilling effect” on other potential candidates, one of the strategists said.

Yet Patrick Miller, a political science professor at the University of Kansas, said the Pompeo hype is premature.

“Outside of Kansas there’s this rush to not only coronate Pompeo, but to set Pompeo and Kobach up as somehow this is going to be some sort of epic primary,” he said. “We’re just not there yet.”

He said open Senate seats in Kansas are rare and generate a lot of “pent up ambition” from Republicans, so he expects a crowded field. Mr. Miller said none of the other potential candidates has signaled they would avoid the race because of Mr. Pompeo.

“They may like him. They may respect him. They know he has a million dollars left in the bank from his House runs, but they’re not ready to concede or defer to him right now,” he said.

On the other hand, one of the Republican strategists said looking at who decides to run will be a clear indicator of whether or not the secretary plans to jump in.

“I think now you’re gonna see people wait to see what happens with Mike,” he said. “The second he gets in the race I think everybody’s campaign is done.”

While Senate Republicans are cheering Mr. Pompeo on, it’s not clear what Mr. Trump’s thoughts would be.

The president has not been shy about encouraging those he wants to see in the Senate, but some outlets have suggested he would object to Mr. Pompeo leaving the administration to mount a campaign during the president’s re-election fight.

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