But that hasn’t stopped Mike Pompeo, the former secretary of state during Donald Trump’s presidency, from quickly establishing himself as the single most aggressive candidate in the still-forming 2024 field.
Pompeo spent Thursday and Friday of last week in Iowa — doing the sorts of things that people who want to make clear they are thinking about running for president do: fundraising for a Republican member of Congress, huddling with Republicans in the GOP-friendly western part of the state and the like.
“We’re in Iowa after all — the first-in-the-nation primary,” Pompeo said during the trip, showing that his campaign pitch needs some fine-tuning; Iowa holds a caucus (or at least they have historically done so) while New Hampshire lays claim to the coveted first-in-the-nation primary.
Speaking of the Granite State, Pompeo Zoomed into a virtual fundraiser for a Republican running for a vacant state House seat on Tuesday.
None of this is by accident. No politician — and I mean NO POLITICIAN — accidentally pops into Iowa one week and then does a fundraiser for a New Hampshire candidate the next. It’s simply not done.
And Pompeo has been characteristically aggressive when asked about whether he might run for president in 2024.
“Sean, I’m always up for a good fight,” Pompeo told Fox News’ Sean Hannity earlier this month when asked about his future plans. “I care deeply about America. You and I have been part of the conservative movement for an awfully long time now. I aim to keep at it.”
Even before he left office in January as the nation’s top diplomat, Pompeo was openly teasing what might come next. “I will never stop fighting for America First, even after my time as Secretary of State,” he tweeted. “There is always more work to be done and I look forward to continuing to share and engage with you on what’s next.”
It’s not complicated to figure out what Pompeo is up to. He knows that if Trump runs again in 2024, the GOP primary is effectively over, given the former President’s continued hold on the party’s base. He also knows that if Trump doesn’t run, there will be an all-out scramble to be the heir to the Trump coalition.
And Pompeo wants to make sure he is at or near the front of that line. Which is why he has, from his first appointment by Trump as the director of the CIA to his final days as secretary of state, put a premium on agreeing with the former President on everything at all times.
In a lengthy 2019 profile of Pompeo by the New Yorker’s Susan Glasser, Pompeo was referred to as a “heat-seeking missile” for Trump’s um, posterior by an unnamed former ambassador.
While that description led to widespread mockery of Pompeo in the Twittersphere, it’s undoubtedly a point in the former secretary of state’s favor among not just Trump voters but the former President himself. Trump likes people who laud him and he made no secret of his belief that Pompeo was one of the stars of his administration. And unlike former Vice President Mike Pence, who fell into disfavor with Trump after refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election, Pompeo has no such stain.
Of course, serving as Trump’s lackey carries its own peril. As The New York Times’ Lara Jakes wrote as Pompeo prepared to leaved office in January:
“As he leaves office, Mr. Pompeo, 57, has been tagged by a number of officials and analysts with the dubious distinction of the worst secretary of state in American history. That will come back to haunt him as he considers running for president in 2024 or seeking another elected office, as he is widely believed to be doing.”
It’s not clear, however, whether the opinions of longtime diplomatic watchers as to Pompeo’s performance in office will matter nearly as much as, say, an endorsement from the former President.
What is clear is that Pompeo is leaving no room for misunderstanding about his future plans: If there’s a wide-open Republican nomination fight in 2024, he wants to be right in the middle of it.