Pompeo to McConnell: I'm (maybe) not running for Senate

Looks like Kansas Republicans will have to find another candidate for the open US Senate seat … maybe. Once again, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has told colleagues and now Mitch McConnell that he has no interest in running for the seat, which might give Democrats an opening for a takeaway in November.

And once again, Pompeo was just a little short of unequivocal on the choice:

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.

His conversation with the majority leader, which took place in Mr. McConnell’s Capitol office, touched on the events of the last few days in the Middle East, according to an aide to the senator.

But is he actually ruling it out? Pompeo addressed questions about the decision earlier this morning. He likes his current job, he told the press, and will keep it — as long as it suits his boss:

“So long as he shall have me” sounds more like a marriage, and in a sense it might be. Of all Trump’s Cabinet, Pompeo seems to be the best fit, at least publicly. Pompeo has managed to keep his own identity largely intact while still carrying out Trump’s policies without any hint of divergence. When he has had to clarify matters — as he did today on Trump’s suggestion that Iranian cultural sites would become targets for retaliation — he manages to do so without outright contradicting the boss.

What if the boss decides he needs to protect his Senate majority more than keeping Pompeo at State? That’s unlikely, perhaps, but not impossible. It would be difficult to replace Pompeo, but the time to do it would be when Trump has 53 votes in the Senate, not in a second term with a Democratic majority in the upper chamber. Pompeo has another five months to go before the filing deadline too, so his “so long as he shall have me” might not be a final answer after all.

Or does Pompeo have another election in mind?

Another person briefed on the decision said it was clear it would be “irresponsible” for Mr. Pompeo to leave the State Department and would not help him in any possible presidential run in 2024 as much as people had speculated it might.

The Mike Pompeo/Nikki Haley primary fight will be lit. But even in that sense, wouldn’t Pompeo be better off launching it from the Senate?

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