Pompeo, who served as Trump’s CIA director before getting confirmed as secretary of state in April 2018, reiterated Sunday that he is focused on being America’s top diplomat. But he appeared to leave open the possibility that he would run if the president wanted him to.
“I’ve said this repeatedly, as long as President Trump wants me to be a secretary of state, I will do what I’ve been doing for the last, goodness, almost year and a half now, focus on trying to deliver security for the American people. It’s my mission every day,” Pompeo said on ABC’s “This Week.”
“I’m focused on what I’m doing,” Pompeo said on Fox News Sunday, prompting the host, Chris Wallace, to ask what he would do if Trump wanted him to run for Senate.
“Goodness knows, Chris. These are impossible to answer,” Pompeo replied.
Pompeo appeared on all five major Sunday political talk shows, in part to speak on the status of peace talks with the Taliban and the Afghan government following Trump’s Saturday night announcement that he called off secretive talks slated to happen Sunday at Camp David.
But the Senate race questions continue to follow Pompeo, partly because of his nuanced answers and partly because of his repeated travels back to Kansas. On Friday, he delivered a major policy address at Kansas State University.
“It was neat to be able to go back home and do that,” Pompeo said on ABC.
The latest Kansas trip came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told a conservative radio host Tuesday that he hopes Pompeo will return to elective office.
“He’s my first choice. I know the president probably likes him where he is, and he’s done an outstanding job as secretary of state,” McConnell told Hugh Hewitt. “But should he decide to go in a different direction, he would obviously be our number one choice.”
McConnell is afraid that without a major figure like Pompeo in the race, the Republican primary might lead to a troubled nominee who could lose in the general election. Republicans have until next spring to convince Pompeo to join the race, ahead of the August 2020 GOP primary.
In particular, GOP leaders worry about the candidacy of Kris Kobach, the controversial Kansas secretary of state who lost the governor’s race last year in the heavily conservative state.
If Pompeo did make the jump, it would be a highly unusual political move. Secretary of state is considered a high-profile destination post that lawmakers leave Congress for — Pompeo, John F. Kerry and Hillary Clinton were all in Congress before taking over at Foggy Bottom.
Some Republicans have suggested that Pompeo should go to the Senate as a hedge for his political future in case Trump loses reelection in 2020.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Pompeo ducked the question, leading the host, Chuck Todd, to ask if he would unequivocally say he would not run for Senate.
“I’ve been pretty clear, Chuck. I think it’s unambiguous. Others want to speculate on my future a lot more than I do,” Pompeo said.
“You will not be on a ballot,” Todd asked.
“As long as President Trump wants me to be his secretary of state,” Pompeo said.