Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the news a lot as foreign policy chief in our warlord-president’s camp. But in certain precincts in Washington he has mostly been thought of as a future U.S. Senator from his home state of Kansas at a time when Republicans are battling to keep the 2020 battleground as narrow as possible. Now the New York Times reports that Pompeo has let Mitch McConnell know he plans to stay at Foggy Bottom:
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Monday told Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, that he does not plan to run for Senate in 2020, most likely ending Republicans’ hopes of securing a potentially dominant candidate for the open seat in his home state of Kansas, according to four people briefed on the meeting.
Mr. Pompeo, a former congressman from the Wichita area, has quietly explored a campaign for months. But in the aftermath of the military operation last week that killed Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani of Iran, Mr. Pompeo has told senior party officials that he is ruling out becoming a candidate, according to several people who have spoken with him directly.
This is bad news for Republicans focused strictly on hanging onto control of the Senate, where the next president’s judicial and legislative agenda could flourish or die. Yes, Kansas is a strongly Republican state that is surely in the bag for Donald Trump (he won the state by 20 points in 2016). But it’s also a state with a more ideologically heterodox GOP than many others, but where a dominant hard-core culturally conservative wing still has the power to win primaries. And with Pompeo out of the race, the front-runner in the 2020 Senate race instantly becomes former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who managed to lose the governorship to Democrat Laura Kelly in 2018.
Kobach, as you may know, is a close ally of Trump’s famous for his nativism and his devotion to the cause of sniffing out imaginary voter fraud. He ran Trump’s failed Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity, which disbanded after both Republican and Democratic-led state refused to comply with its fishing-trip demands for sensitive data about registered voters. In Kansas, Kobach was even better known for his staunch defense of former Republican governor Sam Brownback’s disastrous fiscal policies.
Kobach and the Trump ultras who backed him were strong enough in 2018 to defeat incumbent governor Jeff Colyer, who as lieutenant governor ascended to the top job when Brownback accepted a position in the Trump administration.
It’s not necessarily Pompeo or bust for Kansas, as the Times notes:
Several other candidates are competing for the Republican nomination, including Representative Roger Marshall. National Democrats have rallied behind Barbara Bollier, a state senator who left the G.O.P. to become a Democrat a little more than a year ago, as their preferred candidate.
Still, Republicans already worried about shaky incumbents in Colorado, Iowa, Maine and North Carolina do not need any fresh challenges. So while Pompeo struts his stuff on a global stage, back home his boss’s protege may be wrecking his party’s position in the state, and maybe even its governing majority.,