by Matthew Rusling
WASHINGTON, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- U.S. media is speculating that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is eyeing a run for Senate in his home state of Kansas. If he steps down to hit the campaign trail, that would leave the White House without a key leader, experts said.
U.S. media is surmising that Pompeo's increasingly frequent trips to his home turf amount to an effort to connect with voters in his state, in a bid to lay the groundwork for a run for Senate next year.
Last month, Pompeo showed up in Wichita, the largest city of his home state of Kansas, to tour a workforce development program. Pompeo, who launched his political career in that same city in 2010, posed for photographs, watched student welders demonstrate their skills, and held round-table talks with students from Wichita State University Tech. Also at the event was U.S. President Donald Trump's daughter, Ivanka.
A local reporter earlier that day asked whether visiting a vocational school was a wise use of time for the nation's top diplomat, to which he replied "absolutely."
Trump is facing an impeachment inquiry from Democrats, and media is speculating that Pompeo may want to jump ship for a more permanent job even though experts said an impeachment is unlikely.
Pompeo's exit could weaken the administration in a time of multiple challenges -- tense relations with Iran, for example.
"A Pompeo Senate campaign would rob the administration of one of Trump's most trusted advisers," Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Darrell West told Xinhua.
"The president counts on Pompeo for regular advice on all the major foreign policy issues. If the secretary leaves, it would create an instant power vacuum that would not be easily filled," West said.
"If other cabinet positions are an indication, Trump likely would name an acting secretary who is a Trump loyalist because it might be difficult to get a permanent secretary named, given all the contentiousness surrounding foreign policy," West said.
"If Pompeo leaves, and if previous cabinet departures are any indication, the State Department could be in for a lengthy period with only an acting secretary directing it,"Chris Galdieri, associate professor at Saint Anselm College, told Xinhua.
"That would mean a general absence of leadership and direction and a difficulty achieving any of the administration's goals," Galdieri said.
Should Pompeo step down, the administration would look for an acting secretary who Trump thinks is suitable, instead of worrying about getting a nominee through the Senate, Clay Ramsay, a researcher at the University of Maryland, told Xinhua.
Galdieri said: "I would not expect someone with clear political ambitions, like (former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations) Nikki Haley. Instead I'd look for either an insider with a low profile or someone who's been out of the executive branch for quite some time."
"The Trump administration has been chaotic and Pompeo was always an unusual pick -- not a career diplomat or a big name in GOP (Grand Old Party, or the Republican Party) circles, just someone Trump liked and trusted," Galdieri said.
"Republicans are also, I think, worried about holding the Senate seat up for election in Kansas next year. While it's a conservative state, many fear that (Republican) Kris Kobach could lose another race that the GOP can't afford to lose," Galdieri added.
"Pompeo would probably keep the seat firmly in GOP hands and free the party to worry about vulnerable incumbents in Maine, Iowa, Colorado, and North Carolina," Galdieri said.