The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, launched a personal Twitter account on Saturday with simple message about the big football game of the day: #GoArmyBeatNavy.
But the West Point graduate’s hashtag did not stoke conversations about Army v Navy in Philadelphia. Instead, it added fuel to speculation that Pompeo will soon quit the Trump administration and seek a Senate seat in Kansas.
According to the conservative writer and Trump critic Bill Kristol, it was “sort of amusing” that Pompeo’s official Twitter account identified him as “the 70th US secretary of state” while his new “pre-Senate campaign” account said he was “CURRENTLY serving as the 70th secretary of state”.
The political scientist Ian Bremmer, meanwhile, called the owner of the new account “secretary of (the) state (of Kansas)”, although he subsequently deleted the tweet.
Among the first 26 accounts followed by the new Pompeo account were KFDI News, “Wichita’s news, weather and traffic leader for more than 50 years”; KAKE News, “the most powerful name in Kansas news”; NBC affiliate KSN News Wichita; and Wichita State University.
Pompeo was born and schooled in California, went to college in New York and at Harvard, served with the US army in Germany and worked as a lawyer in Washington. But he moved to Wichita in 1998 and his official Twitter account identifies him as a “proud Kansan”.
He was a Kansas congressman before he became Trump’s first CIA director and then his second secretary of state.
An ardent supporter of the president, Pompeo has denied reports that he is seeking a way out.
But his concentration on and frequent appearances in his home state while representing America on the world stage have been widely noted, relentlessly dissected and, among Democrats, formally protested.
“If Pompeo comes in, it would be no contest,” David Kensinger, a Kansas Republican consultant, told the Guardian last month. “His affiliation with the president will only help him, and no Republican has lost a Senate race in Kansas since 1932.”
Others have suggested Pompeo may be making a feint, preferring to target the Republican presidential nomination after Trump in 2024.
Trump himself seemed to acknowledge the possibility of a Senate run last month, telling Fox News: “Mike would win easily in Kansas.
“He came to me and said ‘Look, I’d rather stay where I am,’ but he loves Kansas, he loves the people of Kansas. If he thought there was a chance of losing that seat, I think he would do that and he would win in a landslide.”
Control of the upper chamber will be fiercely contested next year. Republicans hold it 53-47, giving them a block on legislation from the Democratic-held House, control of judicial appointments and, crucially for Trump, the ability to keep him in office after seemingly inevitable impeachment.
On Saturday, the Wall Street Journal reported an internal Republican poll which said the former Kansas secretary of state Kris Kobach was on track to win the Senate nomination in question – unless Pompeo jumped in.
Kobach, a hardline rightwinger, led Trump’s widely derided and swiftly shuttered commission on voter fraud before losing last year’s gubernatorial election to Democrat Laura Kelly. Republicans reportedly courting Pompeo do not seem thrilled by the prospect of a Kobach Senate campaign.
“If Mike Pompeo doesn’t run, we don’t have a prayer,” the Journal quoted a Republican strategist as saying.