Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says donors at Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin's “Red Vest Retreat” in Virginia Beach have been speculating about whether Youngkin will come off the bench and enter the 2024 presidential race.
"It's fair to say that there are absolutely people here who think he would be a great president," Pompeo said in an exclusive interview with CBS News. "By the way, I would include myself among the people who think that he would be very good in that place, that he is a very capable leader and someone who understands the American people."
The first Republican presidential primary contest, the Iowa caucuses, will take place in about three months, in mid-January. If he were to run, Youngkin would join a crowded field of Republican candidates who have been campaigning in early states for months and implementing ground operations. It's also likely that he will no longer be on the ballot in some states at this point, as deadlines for ballot access begin to pass. The earliest deadline, in Nevada, was October 16.
“We are still very far away. “We are approaching Halloween, but we are still a long way from knowing who the Republican nominee will be,” Pompeo said.
Pompeo previously considered seeking the Republican nomination himself after serving as secretary of state and CIA director in the Trump administration. He ruled out running in April and tweeted that “after much consideration and prayer… I will not run as a candidate to become President of the United States in the 2024 election.”
The two-day retreat, held at the historic Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, has attracted dozens of donors and political operatives from across the country to help Youngkin in Virginia's upcoming midterm elections. Youngkin hopes to flip the state Senate to Republican control and retain the House of Delegates.
"I'm happy to be here to be with people who are also friends of the governors and who are trying to help him ensure that our election here in just a couple of weeks is successful," Pompeo said.
Pompeo says Youngkin asked him to speak at the event and considers him a friend. He said he has not contributed to Youngkin's fundraising efforts, but that he is considering it.
“I haven't contributed, but I should. Maybe that's what I'll do. Maybe I'll ruin my checkbook here today. The Pompeos definitely support Governor Youngkin,” Pompeo said.
The former Secretary of State will participate on a panel at the event about the impact of federal policies on Virginia, including how the ongoing war in Israel will affect Virginians. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier strike group recently departed Naval Base Virginia Beach for a scheduled deployment to the Mediterranean.
The withdrawal coincided with President Biden's trip to Israel to assure the country that it has the full support of the United States in its war against Hamas. Pompeo said he was glad to see Biden embark on the trip, although Jordan canceled his meetings with Arab leaders after an explosion near al-Ahli hospital in Gaza City that Palestinians say killed hundreds of people.
“I'm glad he continued with this. “I think it’s the right place for me to be today,” Pompeo said. “I have listened to some of the president's messages to date. “I didn’t get a chance to see everything, but some things were really good.”
But Pompeo criticized Biden's response to the 31 Americans killed in Hamas surprise attacks in Israel on October 7.
“We had 30 Americans with blue passports killed under President Biden in Israel. “That is a huge security failure,” Pompeo said. “If we do not respond seriously against the leaders who made this decision, not in Gaza City, not in Beirut, but in Tehran, if we do not do it right, we will have many more days in which we will all be simply heartbroken.”