Hagel’s Chances

Junko Kimura/Getty Images
Junko Kimura/Getty Images

9:45 p.m. E.T.

Some wise heads are being scratched over the President’s decision to pick a confirmation fight at this time over this man. The Sunday shows weren’t great for Hagel, in the sense that the opposition was pretty animated and got a lot more attention than those supporting him did.

It appears the best case for Obama if, as expected, he taps Hagel to run the Pentagon is a rough confirmation fight that inflames Republicans, some American Jews, and some gay rights activists.

Many observers viewed Mitch McConnell’s Sunday comments as neutral or maybe even tilting in Hagel’s favor. I thought they were pretty ominous for the White House.

And after the Republican National Committee emailed around a few media stories highlighting criticism of the former Nebraska senator, I asked an RNC official if that meant the party was opposing Hagel’s nomination and/or confirmation. His reply:

The RNC is always going to hold the president accountable when he nominates individuals who are unqualified for office and outside the mainstream on issues that are vital to America’s national security.

The White House hasn’t done much to defend Hagel to date (hard to do before a nomination), but a White House official tells me:

Bottom line is we believe Hagel will be confirmed. There has been a fair bit of heat around his possible nomination – but only one Senator, Sen. Cruz, has gone on the record to say he’ll vote “no.” (And we appreciate Ted Cruz’s comments during his first week on the job).* Lots of Senators say they have questions they want addressed in the hearing. That’s not unusual. We believe in the end – the nomination will be fine. Notably McConnell didn’t come out against, your reporting may indicate he’s not a fan but I don’t think today showed he’s ready to go to war on the issue

Important to remember that a lot of the Republican opposition is due to fact he bucked his party by opposing the Iraq war. Some Republicans are still smarting over that – but don’t think it will ultimately amount to trouble for his nomination.

He will have enthusiastic support of veterans service organizations. And he will be first SecDef who was an enlisted man – that will be popular with the troops. And as Max Cleland said – at the end of the day, are Senators really going to look a veteran hero – who still has two Purple Hearts and shrapnel in his chest – in the eye and say they aren’t going to support him?

Bottom line: if Hagel has a good confirmation sherpa and performs well in his courtesy calls and at his hearings, he will likely be confirmed. But/and at a pretty high cost.

Expect a LOT of people to want to testify against him. And don’t rule out a filibuster of this nomination, which would, obviously, change the math.

*Other Republican Senators, including John Cornyn, have also suggested strong opposition to Hagel.

Related Topics: Barack Obama, RNC, Mark Halperin, Chuck Hagel, Secretary of Defense, The Page, News, Analysis, Democratic Party, Republican Party, White House, Foreign Policy, National Security

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