Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently sought advice from former White House adviser Steve Bannon on entering the Kansas Senate race next year.
The talk between the nation’s top diplomat and Trump’s former campaign chairman was described to the Washington Examiner by a source who spoke with Bannon and by a second source briefed by two people close to Pompeo.
The former White House strategist “claimed that Pompeo was leaning towards a run,” said the source who spoke with Bannon.
The source briefed by people close to Pompeo said one of them was uneasy about Pompeo speaking with the outcast former Breitbart News chairman, who sought to forge links with various European nationalists after being scorned by Trump.
Pompeo publicly ruled out a run in February but spoke with Bannon last month, shortly before President Trump tweeted that Bannon was one of his “best pupils” and that he “loved working with him,” implying a thaw in their relationship.
Political insiders believe that declared GOP Senate candidate Kris Kobach, a conservative firebrand who lost last year’s Kansas gubernatorial race to a Democrat, would back out if Pompeo enters before a June 2020 filing deadline.
“If [Pompeo] runs, Kobach won’t. [Trump] would endorse Pompeo and that’s the ballgame in Kansas,” the second source said.
Pompeo, a former congressman and CIA director, made a surprise appearance at an IHOP in Overland Park, Kansas, on Monday, increasing speculation he will run for Senate. Pompeo said last month it’s possible “something will change” with his plans.
It’s unclear if Pompeo asked Bannon to convey a message to Kobach, with whom Bannon worked early in Trump’s administration on matters such as investigating voter fraud and attempting to add a citizenship question to the census.
It’s also unclear if the conversation has any connection to Trump’s Aug. 2 tweet about Bannon. A former White House aide said the tweet, which included a TV clip of Bannon, signaled the fired adviser was “out of Trump’s personal doghouse” after a brutal clash in January 2018 over author Michael Wolff’s book.
Kobach, a former Kansas secretary of state and current board member of We Build the Wall Inc., which seeks to raise Mexico border wall funds, did not respond to a request for comment.
Bannon and State Department representatives did not offer comments.
Kobach’s candidacy has some Republicans concerned about losing an otherwise easy open Senate race.
“He has the reverse Midas touch, everything he touches turns to crap,” said David Kensinger, who worked as chief of staff to former Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who now works under Pompeo at the State Department.
Kensinger said he doubts Pompeo has made up his mind but that he would win even if he enters the race at the last minute. In the meantime, he said, many GOP donors are waiting to see what happens.
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