On Wednesday, former Kansas senator Bob Dole paid a call to Representative Mike Pompeo, who’s been dropping hints that he plans to challenge Senator Jerry Moran in August’s Republican primary.
According to two sources close to Dole and familiar with the call’s substance, Dole suggested that Pompeo rethink jumping into the Senate race. Dole stressed that Pompeo’s bid would divide Kansas Republicans and could cause a counter-productive, internecine arms race for donors.
Pompeo, according to the sources, said he “appreciated” Dole’s advice, but he hadn’t come to a conclusion yet and would continue to talk with his wife and pray about the matter.
Pompeo declined National Review’s request for comment. Dole, who has given Moran’s campaign $2,500 this cycle, says in a statement that, “There were two people in that conversation and it was private.”
But U.S Chamber of Commerce senior political strategist Scott Reed, who is close with the former senator, says, “Dole would have never encouraged Pompeo to run now. . . . He does think Pompeo is a great legislator with a great future in Kansas politics, possibly [as] governor.”
Moran made waves a few weeks ago at a Kansas town hall when he said that Republicans should grant a hearing for Merrick Garland, President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee. Days later, after the comments touched off a firestorm among conservatives, Moran walked them back. But the reversal appeared to come too late: Pompeo had already blasted Moran publicly by then, and was openly dropping hints of a primary challenge from the right.
Chatter has only grown since that the launch of a Pompeo campaign is imminent. In a statement, Jim Richardson, Pompeo’s former campaign manager, declines to comment on the rumors.
“Mike is currently focused on representing the people of the 4th District. He will serve however best the people of Kansas want him to,” Richardson says. “While the campaign never comments on campaign logistics, I can assure you that Mike remains focused on keeping Kansans safe, secure, and prosperous, and that includes making sure we don’t have a disastrous Supreme Court nominee.”
Dole’s call comes as Kansas groups begin to make their allegiances known, perhaps anticipating Pompeo’s decision. The Kansas Farm Bureau, whose stamp of approval is coveted by any Kansan seeking office, announced its endorsement of Moran today. A KFB staffer, however, says rumors of Pompeo’s pending announcement had “nothing to do with” the timing of the move.
“We made this decision weeks ago to endorse Moran,” the staffer says. “As for Pompeo, we’ve just been waiting like everyone else to see what he does.”
One Kansas Republican says Dole’s call could do more harm than good to Moran, given the so-called “outsider” sentiment gripping the conservative base.
“It’s almost more of a reason for Pompeo to get in,” he says. “In this political climate, when you’ve got a Washington bigwig wagging their finger at you, it’s a bonus.”