Chuck Hagel, the former Republican senator tapped to become the next secretary of defense, has gone on a charm offensive in the lead-up to his confirmation hearing on Thursday, attempting to beat back a well-funded, aggressive campaign that has sought to depict him as an anti-Israel, homophobic politician eager to gut the Pentagon’s budget.

Hagel’s pushback during meetings with more than 50 senators and leaders of special interest groups this month appears to have been effective, said an official helping him prepare for the hearing.

Read the full preview of his Thursday confirmation hearings here.