President Donald Trump declared Friday the open U.S. Senate seat in Kansas could be claimed in a landslide election by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo if the former Kansas congressman reversed course and entered the race.
Pompeo has sought to dispel speculation for months that he would jump in ahead of the June filing deadline and compete in the Republican Party's primary in August. Despite that effort by Pompeo, the political calculus in Kansas and Washington, D.C., continues to include Pompeo as a weighty factor in the contest to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts, a Republican.
Trump added fuel to the conversation during an interview on Fox & Friends in which the president praised Pompeo's diplomatic work as secretary of state and predicted "Trump state" voters in Kansas would embrace Pompeo if he entered the Senate race.
The president said Pompeo would prevail in a "landslide because they love him in Kansas."
"Mike would win easily in Kansas," Trump said. "He loves the people of Kansas. If he thought that there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that."
Witnesses in the ongoing U.S. House impeachment inquiry have linked Pompeo to allegations the Trump administration improperly sought help from Ukraine to improve the president's prospects of re-election in 2020.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle, who has launched a campaign for Roberts' seat, said reporters ought to widen their lens to cover Republicans who have declared their candidacy for the Senate. She said Pompeo shouldn't be distracted from U.S. diplomatic priorities.
"The national news media has forced Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to repeatedly confirm that he is not running for the U.S. Senate in 2020," Wagle said. "It's time for the press to allow Mike Pompeo to do his job, and spend less time having to correct false stories.
"It's also time for the news media to start covering all the Kansas 2020 Senate candidates."
Trump said in the interview Pompeo had previously stated a personal interest in remaining secretary of state. Pompeo was Trump's director of the Central Intelligence Agency before moving in 2018 to the state department.
"He came to me and said, 'I'd rather stay where I am,' " Trump said. "Mike has done an incredible job."
The GOP-majority in the U.S. Senate could be tested in the 2020 election cycle with competitive races in Colorado, Arizona, Maine and elsewhere. Kansas voters haven't sent a Democrat to the U.S. Senate since the 1930s.
Other Republicans interested in the Senate contest include U.S. Rep. Roger Marshall, former Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, former NFL player Dave Lindstrom and Kansas Board of Education member Steve Roberts. State Sen. Barbara Bollier and Manhattan City Commission member Usha Reddi are among candidates in the Democratic Primary.