U.S. Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is eyeing a race against U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, R-Manhattan, in the Aug. 2 GOP primary contest, according to a Pompeo spokesman.
“He certainly does not rule it out,” said Jim Richardson, former campaign manager for the 4th District Congressman Pompeo.
Moran drew sharp attacks from conservative Republicans and groups when he said the process of considering President Barack Obama’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court vacancy should move forward in the Senate.
That ran counter to the strategy of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, to take no action on the nomination of Judge Merrick Garland and to wait for the election of the next president.
Moran’s comments March 21 in Cimarron prompted Pompeo to post March 25 on Twitter: “Jerry Moran pls reconsider. Constitution does not require hearing on SCOTUS nominee & conservative principles demand no hearing be held.”
Pompeo was just one voice. Moran’s own social media pages attracted critics.
Moran responded by issuing a statement March 25 that he opposed Garland and the administration’s attempt “to put another liberal judge on the Supreme Court.” But he continued to say he had a duty to ask questions and demand answers from Garland.
Late last week, he retreated completely. Media reports said Moran had decided Senate hearings weren’t necessary for him to conclude Garland was unacceptable to serve on the Supreme Court.
On Monday morning, Pompeo issued a lengthy response to Moran’s “changed stance” on the Supreme Court nominee.
“I appreciate that Senator Moran has now apparently evolved that holding a hearing and voting to approve Judge Garland’s nomination to the Supreme Court would be a grave mistake,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo said Moran’s previous statement on the Supreme Court nomination process was identical to “the liberal Democrat talking point.” Pompeo blasted Garland’s position on Second Amendment gun rights and said it was “hopelessly and dangerously naïve” for Moran to expect Obama would appoint a believer in the appropriate judicial role and basic interpretation of the Constitution to the court.
“As elected officials, we should never say one thing in Cimarron, Kansas, and something else in the social parlors of Washington, D.C.,” Pompeo also said.
In 2010, Moran won a hard-fought Republican primary race against 4th District Congressman Todd Tiahrt. Moran hasn’t drawn a Republican challenger this year, although Johnson County Republican Milton Wolf, who tried to win U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts’ seat in 2014, continues to portray Moran as a moderate Republican.
“Someone left a puddle on the floor and Jerry’s trying to blame it on the dog,” Wolf posted this week on Facebook, after Moran reversed himself on the court nominee.
Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway said he would be surprised if Pompeo challenged Moran for the Senate.
“Moran’s reversal was out of character for him, so there’s definitely an opening to run now. But Pompeo is also a faithful Republican, and he knows that a three-way race between him, Wolf, and Moran would cause significant damage to the GOP brand in anticipation of November,” Rackaway wrote in a response.
“If I was a candidate thinking of running for a statewide office, say in 2018 or 2020, and I was looking for ways to increase my statewide profile and establish bona fides with the conservative wing of the party, then the press release makes really good strategic sense,” Rackaway said of Pompeo’s reaction to Moran.
Pompeo, finishing up his third term in the House, currently is focused on representing the people of the 4th District, Richardson said. But Pompeo “will serve however best the people of Kansas want him to,” the spokesman said.