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Hagel Ready To Announce . . . What?

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By Chris Cillizza and Matthew Mosk
Friday, March 9, 2007

Sen. Chuck Hagel will make an announcement about his political future on Monday in Omaha. It's anybody's guess, however, exactly what the Nebraska Republican plans to announce.

Hagel's options include a bid for the 2008 presidential nomination as a Republican or an independent, a race for reelection to the seat he has held since 1996, or retirement from elected office.

Most Republican observers believe that Hagel will announce a bid for the presidency when he takes the podium but warn that the senator is known for keeping his own counsel, making it difficult to predict his plans.

Hagel has risen to political prominence in part because of his increasingly harsh criticism of President Bush's approach to the war in Iraq, but his record is reliably conservative on other matters -- a profile that could have appeal to a wide cross section of potential voters.

"He is a movement conservative with lots of liberal support because of his public criticism of President Bush's handling of the Iraq war," said former senator Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1992.

Unlike many potential rivals for the nomination, Hagel has done little spadework to build a national fundraising organization that would provide the financial foundation for a candidacy. "Obviously, he has thought out the policies on which he will base his candidacy," said Bob Stevenson, a political consultant who advised Bill Frist when the Tennessee Republican was in the Senate. "But will he have the organization and the money he will need to make a serious run?"

GOP Sets Sights on Landrieu

The National Republican Senatorial Committee released a poll yesterday aimed at demonstrating the vulnerability of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) in her 2008 reelection bid.

Fifty-one percent of the sample said they would vote to reelect Landrieu and 42 percent said they would consider someone new -- a sign, according to pollster Glen Bolger, that Landrieu is a "vulnerable Democratic incumbent."

Although Bolger writes that "when voters are given a choice between Landrieu and a Republican they know, they invariably choose the Republican," the poll memo includes data for only one statewide head-to-head matchup: Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), who is running for governor this year, led Landrieu by 55 percent to 39 percent. No matchup between Landrieu and Rep. Richard H. Baker (La.) -- the Republicans' preferred candidate -- is mentioned in the memo.

Landrieu won her seat in 1996 by 5,788 votes and was reelected in 2002 with 52 percent of the vote.

A Push for Public Financing

A collection of groups seeking changes in campaign finance signed a letter yesterday urging the 2008 presidential candidates to commit to staying within the public funding system put in place after the Watergate scandal.

"We just think this is absolutely essential to protect the integrity of the presidency," said Fred Wertheimer, president of Democracy 21, one of eight signatories to the letter. "When you have a system of unlimited spending and bundlers replacing big donors as the individuals who gain undue influence, that's a formula for disaster and scandals."

The advocacy groups want candidates to commit, with the understanding that the pledge will be binding only if the other party's nominee also agrees to stick with public money.

Two candidates -- Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) -- have already signaled a willingness to stick to the limits.


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