Hagel For President Hooplaby Kyle Michaelis
Sen. Chuck Hagel returns to New Hampshire today on a profile-raising tour as traffic picks up in the nation’s first 2008 presidential primary state.
Hagel will speak at events in three cities, headline a Republican fund-raising dinner and answer questions on New Hampshire public radio. The three-day visit will mark Hagel’s first trip to the Granite State since a tour last May.
“The field is still wide open” almost two years before the GOP primary, said Dante Scala, director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at St. Anselm College in suburban Manchester....
But two Republican prospects, Sen. John McCain of Arizona and neighboring Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, hold the early advantage in New Hampshire, Scala said. Hagel, he said, is “very low on the radar screen right now"....
Hagel’s independence and willingness to challenge his party and president on high-profile issues like Iraq might make him a more formidable presidential candidate in a general election than a Republican primary, said Stephen Hess, professor at George Washington University and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution....
The problem for Hagel in 2008, if he chooses to seek the GOP nomination, is that he appears to be “a shadow of McCain, who has been a much more potent and serious candidate.”
In a sense, Hess said, McCain and Hagel are on a teeter-totter, with Hagel’s fortunes rising if McCain’s decline.
One advantage for Hagel could be Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses, which precede the New Hampshire vote. McCain didn’t actively compete in the 2000 Iowa caucuses. Hagel hails from a bordering state....
Hagel has said he won’t decide on whether to seek the presidency until he has an opportunity to view the lay of the land after this November’s national elections. In the meantime, he said, he’s concentrating more on probing potential fund-raising opportunities than piling up campaign miles.
One gets a sense that the one thing that could really make Hagel a player in 2008 is a total electoral catastrophe for the Republicans this November. If Bush, the war in Iraq, and the Republican Party's continuing string of ethical lapses leave Republicans in retreat, party leaders and GOP voters might suddenly like the idea of a man who's managed to separate himself from the incredibly unpopular current president while maintaining a voting record that is as partisan as they come.
In other words, Hagel might make for a fine "comfort food" candidate - different in tone, same in substance - around whom Republicans would rally in case of total and utter disaster. But, aside from that possibility, his chances aren't looking too good.
Still, it's worth mentioning here that proud right-wing Nebraska blogger, PTG, has discoved a "Chuck Hagel for President" Blog he describes as "fakey."
Supposedly run by a Hagel fan from South Carolina, it's not really clear what sort of hand Hagel's own campaign might have in the site, though it does seem suspicious that the guy running it would discover the website for Hagel's Sandhills PAC the day it went online without a little assistance.
But, such is the role of the Internet on modern campaigning. Voters can never really be sure exactly what they are reading or who it is coming from. Unless, of course, we're talking about your good friends at the New Nebraska Network...where, frankly, I'm too in love with my own BS to let anyone else do my talking for me.