- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is courting Republican voters in New Hampshire, building the foundation for a potential 2024 presidential campaign in the early primary state undaunted by former President Donald Trump’s hints that he’ll join the race.

Mr. Pompeo hit the ground on Tuesday and ramped up his outreach to key Republican constituencies necessary to compete in what is traditionally the first-in-the-nation presidential primary.

He huddled with members of the New Hampshire GOP, toured defense and aerospace manufacturer TRM Microwave, and participated in the Club for Growth’s first forum in a national campaign focused on school choice.

When he took the stage at the conservative Club’s education-focused forum, he noted that a former secretary of state’s presence might seem “odd,” but he joked that his experience as a fifth grade Sunday school teacher prepared him for America’s top diplomatic post.

Mr. Pompeo criticized President Biden’s strategy for withdrawing troops from Afghanistan before pivoting to domestic policy in remarks hitting notes that had the sound of a 2024 stump speech under development.

“There is nothing, there was no threat — not the Chinese Communist Party, not [Russian President] Vladimir Putin, not the time I met, spent with Chairman Kim in North Korea — there is nothing more likely to undermine our way of life here in the United States than our failure to educate the next generation,” Mr. Pompeo said. “It’s not a close call. It’s not a close call and we are on the cusp of losing it.”

Mr. Pompeo is among a crowd of Republicans who are eyeing 2024 and wondering if the formidable Mr. Trump will run for a second term at age 78.

Mr. Pompeo has not committed to running for president but has hinted at a potential run if Mr. Trump did not pursue another term in office. Asked by Fox News’s Sean Hannity in March if he would consider running if Mr. Trump did not, Mr. Pompeo said, “I’m always up for a good fight.”

On paper, Mr. Pompeo looks like a contender. He’s a former Army captain, congressional member and served as Mr. Trump’s CIA director and then secretary of state.

He documented his trip through New Hampshire on Instagram and Twitter, where he posted photos of his meetings with captions providing reminders of his resume as a businessman and Kansan away from Washington, D.C., where he was a lawmaker and head of the CIA and State Department.  

He noted on social media that his trip to TRM Microwave in Bedford was akin to “the manufacturing businesses I led in Kansas,” as the company made “real stuff.”

Mr. Pompeo also got involved in state-level politicking and targeted a local audience with his messaging. He endorsed Linda Camarota ahead of a September special election for a state representative seat, and earlier this year he appeared at a virtual fundraiser for another state-level candidate.

Instead of trashing Mr. Biden’s foreign policy on Fox News — where Mr. Pompeo is a contributor — he sat for an interview with New Hampshire’s WMUR and defended Mr. Trump’s approach to Afghanistan.

Mr. Pompeo’s efforts to develop inroads with influential New Hampshire conservatives could prove useful in developing his own roster of surrogate defenders against critics seeking to ground his future political aspirations before they take flight.

As chaotic scenes from Afghanistan spread in August, Mr. Pompeo weathered criticism about the Trump administration’s negotiations with the Taliban. Some of the sharpest criticism came from John R. Bolton, Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser who later became an outspoken Trump critic.

Ahead of the 2024 campaigns, Mr. Pompeo is poised to play a role in the GOP’s efforts to retake Congress in next year’s midterm elections. He launched “CAVPAC,” an advocacy group designed to help elect Republicans. He endorsed former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt for the Senate against Democratic incumbent Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto earlier this week.

• Ryan Lovelace can be reached at rlovelace@washingtontimes.com.

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