Chuck Hagel is expected to throw his hat in the ring for president

The Washington Times reports:

Nebraska’s Chuck Hagel, the Senate Republican most outspoken in opposition to President Bush’s March 2003 decision to invade Iraq, is expected to announce Monday that he will make a bid for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Mr. Hagel’s candidacy could refocus the presidential contest debate, adding his Iraq doubts to those of former Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III, currently the only prominent Republican in the race who has been skeptical about the basis of the war from the beginning.

The question on nearly every Republican’s lips yesterday was whether Mr. Hagel can raise the $100 million-plus that campaign analysts say will be needed by the end of this year to be a serious 2008 nomination contender.

“Hagel has a strong conservative record and great campaign skills, and if he could raise money, he could be a serious competitor,” said Charles Black, who has advised every Republican presidential campaign in the past 31 years. “But his opposition to the president on the Iraq war would deny him access to the great majority of primary voters. Most of them support Bush on Iraq.”


Mr. Hagel is regarded as an ideological soulmate of Arizona Sen. John McCain on changing campaign-finance rules and other issues, but Mr. McCain has become as strong a supporter of increasing the U.S. force in Iraq while Mr. Hagel is a doubter. Meanwhile, both men’s conservative ratings plunged last year.

Mr. Hagel’s American Conservative Union rating for 2006, posted on ACU Web site yesterday was 75, down 21 points from his 2005 score of 96. He voted contrary to conservative positions on defining earmarks in appropriations bills, on allowing “native” Hawaiians to form a government within the broader state government, and on immigration and border-enforcement changes, among other things.

Sigh. Will the real conservative in this race please step forward?

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