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Nebraska's Hagel Faces Political War at Home

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Nebraska's Hagel Faces Political War at Home

Politics

Nebraska's Hagel Faces Political War at Home

Nebraska's Hagel Faces Political War at Home

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/10464131/10474711" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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Hagel at a news conference to unveil exhibits for the new Vietnam Veterans memorial center. i

Sen. Chuck Hagel at a news conference held May 22 to unveil planned exhibits for the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Hagel at a news conference to unveil exhibits for the new Vietnam Veterans memorial center.

Sen. Chuck Hagel at a news conference held May 22 to unveil planned exhibits for the new Vietnam Veterans Memorial Center. Hagel is a Vietnam veteran.

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Senator Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican, has made the anti-war community pay attention to his repeated criticism of how President Bush has handled the war in Iraq.

He's also spoken of his disappointment with the GOP and hinted about an independent presidential candidacy.

His comments have angered some of his fellow Republicans in the Cornhusker State. Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning says he plans to challenge Hagel in next year's GOP primary for U.S. Senate.

Martin Wells reports for Nebraska Public Radio.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (NE)

Candidacy Status: Potential candidate, undeclared.

Chuck Hagel. Credit: Getty Images.

Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is at a crossroads in his political career. Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Getty Images
At a Glance: Chuck Hagel

Being an unapologetic maverick may be Sen. Chuck Hagel's biggest asset should he end up on the November 2008 presidential ballot.

But Hagel's willingness to march to a different drummer could also be his biggest liability in a GOP presidential primary race that is typically decided by party loyalists.

Hagel has strong conservative credentials for a White House run. He's a Vietnam veteran who earned two Purple Hearts in combat. The American Conservative Union rated his 2005 voting record 96 percent conservative, compared to the 80 percent rating Hagel's close friend, Sen. John McCain, got from the ACU. Hagel has consistently supported cutting taxes. He has a long record of opposing abortion. He opposes gay marriage. He is strongly pro-trade.

Still, Hagel is on the outs with the Bush administration and has expressed deep concerns about the Republican party's direction.

"The party that I first voted for on top of a tank in Mekong Delta 1968 is not the party I see today," he declared in January 2007 on CBS' Face the Nation.

Hagel has been an outspoken critic of the Iraq war, despite having voted for the October 2002 resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq. He's been one of the few Republicans voting with Democrats on measures aimed at winding down the war.

On the issue of immigration, his strong support for a guest worker program and giving a path to legal status for millions of illegal immigrants puts him on the side of the president, but at odds with many fellow Republicans.

Hagel is at a crossroads in his political career. He is deciding whether to seek a third term next year, run for president, or retire from politics altogether. And if he seeks the White House there remains the possibility he would do so as an independent.

In a May 2007 appearance on Face the Nation, he hinted about an independent candidacy, suggesting that he thought a ticket of New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and himself wouldn't be so bad — though he didn't disclose who he thought should lead the ticket.

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