Is there a path for Pompeo?

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the process of checking the boxes on all the steps one takes before running for president.

Trips to early primary states? Check

Endorsements to build support among the rank and file? Check

Television appearances? Check

Working on his physical appearance? Check

And then there’s his latest item crossed off the list — publishing a book.

These types of books usually have two goals — to lay out the general political philosophy of the potential candidate and to drum up publicity.

Pompeo’s book has certainly drummed up publicity. Aside from winning him appearances on major television networks, it drew criticism from a number of news outlets — particularly for his portrayal of Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, who was likely complicit in the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi, according to U.S. intelligence.

In its review of the book, the Washington Post called Pompeo a “mean son of a bitch.” Its editorial about Pompeo accused him of not respecting free speech. On top of that, Mexican Foreign Affairs Minister Marcelo Ebrard wrote a letter criticizing Pompeo’s book and saying it’s part of an “anti-Mexican campaign.”

Pompeo desperately needs attention if he decides to jump into the Republican primary. While former President Donald Trump, Pompeo’s former boss, is the only major Republican who has officially announced a campaign, in very early polling, Pompeo is averaging around 1% of the vote. His highest mark in polls this January is 3%. Sometimes his name isn’t showing up in the polls at all.

In a poll released Thursday of likely Republican voters in New Hampshire — an early primary state that carries outsized importance — conducted by the University of New Hampshire, Pompeo was polling at 0%. He fared better as a second choice candidate, bringing in 6%. He did best with people who were 65 or older, people who attend religious services at least once a week and who have a high school degree or less. But his unfavorability rating was seven points higher than his favorability rating and 38% people didn’t know enough about him to have an opinion.

Pompeo is navigating the same question as many in the Republican Party: what does the party look like post Trump, particularly when he hasn’t removed himself from politics.

How do you run against someone who is still widely liked by your base? How do you peel away his very loyal voters and push the party in a new direction? What should you learn from Trump — who is a unique politician in everything from personality to his ability to turnout voters who are often otherwise disengaged — and what can be abandoned?

No one has really been able to answer those questions yet.

Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri seems to be betting on the populism aspect of Trump’s message. He centers his focus on the working class voters who flocked to Trump in 2016 and helped paint many former Democratic strongholds red. Hawley has been considered a potential presidential candidate, though he has said he is not running and does not appear in most polls.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has arguably been the most successful. He’s competing with and sometimes beating Trump in head to head polls. He seems to have adopted the “fighter” persona that Trump cultivated and won over his base by positioning himself as someone who will stand up for their values.

Pompeo appears to be leaning harder on fighter approach while laying the groundwork of his campaign.

But, in leaning into his background as Secretary of State, his emphasis seems to be on fighting for America overseas. In what would likely be a tough Republican primary, does a fight with a news organization over a murdered journalist in Saudi Arabia really win over voters who seem to be gravitating toward an “America First” populist nationalism?

More from Missouri

Missouri Republicans have filed more anti-LGBTQ bills than lawmakers in any other state. It’s part of an onslaught of legislation as transgender rights have been placed in the cross hairs of the culture wars. LGBTQ rights have long been challenged by conservatives, dating back to the early days of the gay rights movement. But with Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ successful push to prohibit discussion about gender identity and sexual orientation from some classrooms, conservatives appear once again emboldened after a string of legal losses throughout the 2010s.

Here are headlines from across the state:

And across Kansas

Kansas Senate President Ty Masterson wants to make changes to the state’s Ethics Commission as it looks into possible campaign finance violations by Republican officials. The target of the probe is Jared Suhn, a well-connected Republican consultant. Masterson, who has used Suhn as a consultant, says he believes the commission has taken on an “activist role.”

The latest from Kansas City

In Kansas City …

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Odds and ends

Senator, we’re not in Jeff City anymore

Freshman Republican Sen. Eric Schmitt made waves in the Senate this week when he attempted to secure a spot on the Judiciary Committee, a high profile committee that handles Supreme Court nominees and attracts plenty of media attention.

Schmitt, making somewhat of a faux pas in a chamber that’s known for being stodgy and traditional, called both Sens. Thom Tillis and Marsha Blackburn, asking them if they’d step down from the committee, according to Politico.

Neither budged. Blackburn is the only Republican woman on the committee. Tillis is a rising star among the Senate caucus, just joined the leadership team and has had his hands in almost every major bill the Senate passed last Congress.

Schmitt did, however, succeed in ruffling feathers.

“This is something the Missouri senators need to work out,” Blackburn told Politico.

Sen. Josh Hawley is on the Judiciary Committee but wasn’t giving up his seat to Schmitt. He has used it to capture attention, including during the hearings of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

On Thursday, Hawley said he supported Schmitt’s waiver to join the committee, which was ultimately voted down.

“All the freshmen are getting squeezed here because we’re losing seats on committees because we are not in the majority,” Hawley said. “That’s the big problem.”

First bills

Rep. Mark Alford, a freshman Republican whose district stretches from the southern edge of Kansas City to central Missouri, filed his first bill this week. Called the A-PLUS Act, it would allow livestock auction owners to invest in small and regional meatpacking facilities.

In his press release about the bill, Alford said the existing regulations were outdated and don’t reflect the modern meatpacking industry.

His initial bill is a different approach than Rep. Eric Burlison, who represents southwestern Missouri. Burlison filed a bill that would repeal the National Firearms Act, a cornerstone law the Department of Justice uses to combat gun violence.

Chiefs Pride

It’s the time of year where politicians pander to their constituents by making friendly bets about their hometown football team.

Reps. Emanuel Cleaver and Sharice Davids teamed up to bet Rep. Greg Landsman, a Democrat from Cincinnati, that the Chiefs will beat the Bengals in Sunday’s AFC Championship.

Both Cleaver and Davids will end up losing, even if they win. Their prize would be bowls of Skyline Chili, an atrocity of spaghetti, topped with chili, topped with shredded cheddar cheese, topped with beans or onions, or — if you have a bottle of Tums you’ve been hoping to finish off — both.

If the Bengals win, Landsman gets an actual prize — Kansas City BBQ. The press release did not specify which Kansas City BBQ joint so, intrepid reporter that I am, I found out that it would come from both Gates and Q39.

Not that he’ll get to taste it though. Go Chiefs. (Can you tell I am pandering, just like the politicians?)

There’s some Chiefs spirit on the Senate side too, where Sen. Roger Marshall’s wardrobe has gotten increasingly red over the course of the week.

On Wednesday, he was spotted in the halls wearing a Chiefs tie. On Thursday, that tie turned into a full Chiefs shirt, worn over his dress shirt and tie but under his jacket. He said he has not yet made a bet over the outcome of the game.

Hawley, who has Chiefs jerseys hanging in his office, also has not made any bets about the game. He said he may revisit that over the next few days by betting with Sen. J.D. Vance, a Freshman Republican from Ohio. Hawley campaigned for Vance last year.

Happy Friday

Here’s an article about someone who was tracking the Proud Boys long before they stormed the U.S. Capitol. Have a hot toddy. Here’s some Aaron Copland.

Enjoy your weekend.

Daniel Desrochers is the Star’s Washington, D.C. Correspondent
Daniel Desrochers is the Star’s Washington, D.C. Correspondent

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