Candidacy Status: Potential candidate, undeclared.
Republican Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is at a crossroads in his political career.
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.