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Republican donors told to wait as Pompeo considers Kansas Senate run

Nick Wadhams and Jennifer Jacobs, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Pompeo was in Kansas again on Monday, stopping at an International House of Pancakes restaurant to celebrate his mother-in-law's birthday,The Kansas City Star reported. The store's manager told the paper that some customers thought that Pompeo was going to deliver a speech. Instead, he ordered two scrambled eggs, two pancakes, two strips of turkey bacon and a Pepsi.

A person close to Pompeo said the secretary, despite his denials, hasn't made a decision on whether to leave the State Department, where he has overseen the Trump administration's negotiations with North Korea and led efforts to ratchet up pressure on Iran. But analysts say he'd be a potent candidate.

"You have a guy who was director of the CIA, secretary of State, he's a veteran," said Aaron David Miller, a former adviser at the State Department. "On paper, he represents the embodiment of what many Republicans would look to, and I think he understands that."

At the same time, Pompeo has sounded out some allies and advisers on the advantages and disadvantages of making a presidential bid from the Senate or the private sector. And he has spoken privately with the same confidantes about the possibility of leaving the State Department later this year.

A person familiar with President Donald Trump's thinking said that he's annoyed by all the speculation about a possible run by Pompeo, the only remaining member of Trump's original national security Cabinet.

Even as Pompeo has maintained his Kansas ties, his speeches and actions at the State Department show how much he also continues to appeal to conservatives he'd want to lure in a Kansas race.

Supporters of gay rights were disheartened in June when Pompeo declined to distribute a diplomatic cable to embassies around the world instructing them on how to celebrate Gay Pride Month, a routine practice from years past. He also reversed past policy allowing embassies globally to fly the gay pride rainbow flag from the same flagpole as the Stars and Stripes.

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While secretaries of State traditionally avoid overt political statements, Pompeo has criticized former President Barack Obama by name. In a speech to the VFW conference in Orlando last month, he accused the former president of "appeasement of the brutal Castro regime" -- a reference to the easing of economic restrictions on Cuba. He then went further, suggesting that past administrations had lost sight of the "American creed."

"Perhaps saddest of all, we let the doctrines of global elites dictate our engagement," Pompeo said.

"I read that and I just thought, 'OK, this is a guy who's got his eye on 2024,'" James Goldgeier, a professor of international relations at American University, said in an interview. "This isn't a guy interested in talking like a secretary of State. He's a guy interested in making connections that help him in his political future."

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