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National Politics

Pompeo tells McConnell he won’t run for the Senate

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday that he does not plan to run for the US Senate seat in Kansas, sources familiar with the conversation told CNN, appearing to end months of speculation about Pompeo’s political plans.

One Republican source said that although the filing deadline for Pompeo to run for the open seat in Kansas has not passed, the secretary of state told McConnell not to wait for him and the National Republican Senatorial Committee should assume he’s not running. A source close to McConnell confirmed the content of their Monday conversation, telling CNN that Pompeo “indicated he will not be running for Senate.”

“Leader McConnell believes Secretary Pompeo is doing an incredible job as secretary of state and is exactly where the country needs him to be right now,” that source said.

The New York Times was first to report the news.

Crises around the globe

Pompeo’s conversation with the Senate leader comes as the top US diplomat is grappling with foreign policy crises around the globe — most notably the growing fallout from the US’ deadly strike on a top Iranian commander in Iraq. It also comes ahead of a looming Senate trial following the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

A second source told CNN that Pompeo conveyed to McConnell that given everything going on, he did not want Republicans pinning their hopes on him, although McConnell made clear that Pompeo did not yet need to make up his mind. The filing deadline in Kansas is June 1.

A third Republican familiar with the matter said Pompeo “had been teetering for a while and almost made the call earlier in the year, but (national security adviser) John Bolton suddenly resigned, so he stayed.” That source said that Pompeo did not entirely close the door on the matter, but told McConnell to seriously consider alternatives and act under the assumption that he is not running.

Pompeo was spotted on Capitol Hill on Monday leaving a classified briefing room and McConnell left shortly after. It is unclear if they also used the setting to discuss Iran. The Kentucky Republican declined to discuss the matter with CNN as he left the Senate floor.

‘It’s my intention to stay here’

The secretary of state had long downplayed — but not entirely dismissed — the potential of a Senate bid in public comments, but his frequent trips to his home state, as well as the recent launch of personal social media profiles, stoked speculation about his political ambitions. Prior to joining the Trump administration, Pompeo served in the House of Representatives for six years.

“I’ve watched my life take turns that one would never have expected, but it’s not something I want to do. I want to stay here and continue to perform the mission that I’m serving President Trump, and I hope doing a good turn for the American people as well,” Pompeo said in late December on “Fox & Friends.”

In that interview, Pompeo noted that the Sunflower State is “home,” but said it’s his “intention to stay here and continue to serve as President Trump’s secretary of state.”

“I’ve said that consistently,” Pompeo said. “I intend to keep saying it, and as long as President Trump wants me to serve in this capacity, there’s still work to do.”

According to a source close to Pompeo, he had also been telling McConnell for some time that he didn’t want to run but was leaving the door open because the Senate leader was lobbying him and because there was concern about holding the seat.

Trump, who has said Pompeo would run if there were a risk of Republicans losing the Kansas seat, has received briefings from McConnell on Pompeo’s polling strength in the state, people familiar with the matter said.

Kansas’ GOP streak

Kansas hasn’t sent a Democrat to the upper chamber of Congress since 1932, giving the state party the longest streak of Senate dominance in the country.

For months, high-profile Republican officials, including McConnell, aimed to make sure that would remain the case, urging Pompeo to run in order to keep the seat and the Senate firmly in the party’s control. Some warned that the conservative, polarizing Senate candidate Kris Kobach could jeopardize another Republican position after losing the governor’s race in 2018 to Democrat Laura Kelly. One recent poll put Kobach well ahead of his next closest Republican rival, Rep. Roger Marshall. Barbara Bollier, a Kansas state senator who recently left the Republican Party, is running as a Democrat for the US Senate in 2020.

“As long as there is a chance that we end up with [the] same loser nominee at the top of the ticket we had in 2018, then the seat is in play,” David Kensinger, a Kansas Republican strategist, told CNN.

A source familiar with Monday’s conversation told CNN that “for every non-Kobach candidate this makes a lot of sense, so they can spread their wings. We have six months, so it gives them time to fundraise to show what they can do.”

“And there is always the emergency option out there,” the source said, referring to Pompeo possibly jumping in at the last minute if the polls show that no GOP candidate looks like they can win the seat.