Secretary of State Mike Pompeo categorically denied reports that he is preparing to make a run for the Senate in Kansas, declaring them “completely false” ahead of an appearance Monday alongside Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who has said Pompeo is his “first choice” to run for the seat.
Pompeo told Fox News that there is “nothing at all” to reports he will step aside as the top US diplomat to run for the seat.
Asked whether there was anything to a TIME Magazine report that he’d recently spoken to three prominent Republicans about running in Kansas, Pompeo said: “Nothing at all. Completely false.”
However, Pompeo was silent on any future political ambitions at the event with McConnell at the University of Louisville.
For months, Pompeo has been dogged with questions about whether he will run for the Senate seat, speculation that reflects Republican worries about the seat in Kansas with the looming retirement of veteran Republican Sen. Pat Roberts.
’I’m going to continue’
On Monday, Pompeo reiterated his intent to stay at the State Department. “As long as President (Donald) Trump will have me as his Secretary of State, I’m going to continue to do this important work,” he said.
But Trump himself has seemed open to the possibility of having Pompeo run in Kansas, telling “Fox & Friends” on November 22 that he had spoken to Pompeo about the seat and that he thought Pompeo “would easily win Kansas.”
“If I thought they had somebody out there that couldn’t win – and Mike would, really, he loves what he’s doing…. He came to me and said, ‘Look, I’d rather stay where I am.’ But he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas,” Trump said. “If he thought that there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and we would win in a landslide because they love him in Kansas.”
Fox hosts reminded Pompeo on Monday of Trump’s confidence in his ability to win and asked if he was sure that he could carry the seat. Pompeo told them, “It’s a tough race everywhere you go. I’ve never had an easy political race in my life.”
Kansas hasn’t had a Democratic senator since 1932, but Roberts’ looming retirement has become a cause for concern within the GOP establishment.
Their worry is that the party will nominate Kris Kobach, an anti-illegal immigration firebrand and voter-fraud crusader who lost the governor’s race last year to a Democrat. Kobach then turned around and announced his candidacy for Senate in July.
Democrats also made gains in the Kansas 2018 congressional races. The GOP worry is that a Senate race with Kobach could become a repeat of the governor’s race, paving the path for a Democratic victory. Roberts himself has wondered publicly if Kansas was shifting politically, telling CNN he didn’t know if Kansas was “deep red anymore” and was now “maybe purple.”
McConnell told conservative talk show host Hugh Hewitt on September 3 that Pompeo is his “first choice” for a candidate.
In mid-November, a State Department official told CNN that “Secretary Pompeo is only focused on executing President Trump’s foreign policy goals and completing the mission for the American people at the State Department. Anyone who says otherwise is just wrong.”
CNN’s Maegan Vasquez, Jennifer Hansler, Alex Rogers, Kylie Atwood and Jim Acosta contributed to this report