Senate Republican strategists are pushing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo as a failsafe candidate to keep retiring Sen. Pat Roberts’s (Kan.) seat in Republican hands in 2020, fearing the state could give Democrats an upset victory.
The push comes as Kansas Republicans have been chastened by recent Democratic victories in the state’s race for governor, where Laura #Kelly beat conservative Republican Kris Kobach, and a key House race, where Democrat Sharice Davids beat incumbent Rep. Kevin Yoder (R).
“We lost a governor’s race. We lost a key House race for a seat that was held by Republicans for several terms. We can’t afford to head into November of 2020 worried about whether a Republican can hang onto the Senate seat in a Republican state like Kansas,” said a Senate GOP strategist.
“If Mike #Pompeo is the nominee in Kansas, the race comes off the map,” the strategist added. “And, by the way, he would make a phenomenal senator.”
Republicans are also worried about a strong Democratic performance in the 2020 presidential election, when Democratic turnout is typically stronger, and Trump’s low popularity in suburban areas, as seen in the 2018 midterm election.
Strategists say that Sen. Ted Cruz’s (R) narrow reelection over liberal Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D) in Texas opened their eyes to the danger faced by Republican candidates even in deep-red states because of the unpredictable political currents stoked by Trump.
“Trump has a serious problem with urban women,” said a third GOP strategist with strong ties to Kansas.
“Even in Texas, there was a massive undervote where 300,000 Republican voters who supported Greg Abbot didn’t support Cruz,” the source added, referring to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s reelection.
There’s fear among Republicans that Trump may weigh on the federal race by turning off middle-of-the-road Republicans and suburban women.
The GOP strategist with Kansas ties noted that two lawmakers from the Kansas City suburbs, state Sen. Dinah Sykes and state Rep. Stephanie Clayton, last month announced they would leave the Republican Party to represent their districts as Democrats.
“I’m sure McConnell is nervous,” the source said, speculating that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) would love to see Pompeo run for Roberts’s seat. “If you can have someone like Kevin Yoder lose in the 3rd District, I would be nervous. That state is purple.”