Coloradans got a taste of what the likely issues will be in the 2024 presidential election Friday, when potential Republican candidate Mike Pompeo rolled into town to campaign for Rep. Doug Lamborn.
And the threat posed by China may be at the top of the list.
"The Chinese Communist Party is the singular external threat," warned Pompeo, President Trump's former secretary of state, in an exclusive interview with The Gazette.
"This is the hardest problem we've had to face in a couple hundred years," he said. "Economic, military, cyber, all of the above."
The threat the Soviet Union posed in the Cold War pales in comparison because the Soviets had nowhere the economic power the Chinese have, he added.
"We all talk about the history from Nazi Germany. We say we will never let this happen again, never again," he said in reference to widespread accusations the Chinese have detained more than one million Uyghurs against their will in "re-education camps." Human rights group have accused China of committing genocide in the camps.
"It's happening again on our watch," said Pompeo, a Harvard-trained lawyer and former tank commander who also headed up the CIA and graduated first in his class at West Point.
"If we sit back like we have been for 40 years and turn the other cheek, then the Chinese Communist Party will have us living in a world that looks more like theirs than ours, and that's no good for our grandkids."
If Pompeo's laundry list of talking points is any indication, other issues Republican candidates are likely to push include the lasting negative impact of the Afghan pullout on the United States' standing in the world, and the need to "take back the country" at a granular level, including school board races and city council races.
Pompeo has been traveling the country extensively since he left office, including campaigning for Congressional candidates and in local races.
"I've traveled the country and I've helped school board candidates, I've helped in city council races," he said. "Your city councilman, your school board member, your sheriff, your county election commissioner — these are people who have a real impact on ordinary lives. In ways that maybe we didn't see before."
He sees a lot of Republican energy being poured into those local races and into taking back Congress in the for the midterms, he said.
"First thing I learned as a soldier was help stop the bleeding," he said. "My aim is to help stop the bleeding. So that we can reclaim this country starting in November of 2022."
Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet's campaign for reelection sent out a fundraising campaign on the heels of Pompeo's campaign event at The Lodge at Flying Horse in north Colorado Springs.
"Republicans in Colorado Springs welcomed Trump’s former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to a closed-door fundraising event with tickets starting at $250," according to an email from the campaign.
"While Michael is working to undo Trump’s policies that harmed our state, far-right Republicans are amplifying Trump’s allies. Their strategy is clear: Embrace far-right voices like Pompeo, Lauren Boebert and even recently, Marjorie Taylor-Greene, to flip Colorado."
At the moment, Pompeo, former Vice President Mike Pence, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley are the names mentioned most often as contenders for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
Pompeo launched a political action committee this summer, has been raising money aggressively for candidates from big GOP donors, and already has made two visits to Iowa and one to New Hampshire — the two states with the first presidential primaries. All the moves are sure signs of a potential 2024 presidential run.
When asked if he were contemplating a presidential run or a jump back into politics in some fashion, he said, "It's not about if. I've been at this for 25 years, working in conservative causes. I'm not going to stop. Whether that's back in politics or not, only the Lord knows."
Right now, he said, he is focused on the midterms, including doing all he can to help Lamborn get reelected.
"I've known Doug since I came to Congress in 2010," Pompeo said. "When I showed up ... I was looking for people who could help me think my way through how I could be effective. Doug was every bit of that."
"He's a fighter for the things that matter to his people," Pompeo told the crowd. "He does what he tells you he will do."
With only 12 months until the midterms, Pompeo said there is no time for Republicans to waste.
"The clock moves fast. We're minus five in the House of Representatives, can't afford to lose one. All my effort is on 2022."