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Waiting on Hagel's Announcement

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R) will let the political world in on his future plans this morning at a scheduled news briefing in his home state of Nebraska. No credible news of his intentions leaked over the weekend, so his announcement will apparently be the rare surprise in American politics.

Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska
Will Chuck Hagel retire from politics? Run for president? Seek another term in the Senate? We'll know more late Monday morning. (AP File Photo)

Heading into the weekend, the Democratic National Committee released a research document on Hagel that included a page from a pamphlet entitled "Where I Stand" that Hagel distributed during his 1996 campaign. In it is a section on term limits in which Hagel writes: "I support term limits. However I will not need term limits. Twelve years in Congress is not enough for anyone."

Not exactly a hard-and-fast pledge, but interesting nonetheless. How much will it affect Hagel's decision later today? Probably not much. Recent political history suggests that voters care little about term limits and have regularly reelected lawmakers who have broken such pledges.

But Hagel has always fashioned himself as a citizen-legislator -- an image that could well factor into his decision-making process. He has never been particularly enamored with the Senate, and his dream of chairing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee may be out of reach with Democrats back in the majority and likely to stay there given the 2008 playing field.

If Hagel announces he is leaving the Senate (whether or not that decision is paired with a presidential bid), Republicans would still be favored to hold the open seat given Nebraska's strong Republican lean.

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Johanns, who served as Nebraska governor from 1998 until 2005, would be the party's first choice. Rep. Lee Terry, state Attorney General Jon Bruning, former Omaha Mayor Hal Daub and 2006 Senate nominee Pete Ricketts have also voiced varying levels of interest in running but all would likely step aside if Johanns runs.

The picture is far clearer for Democrats. Omaha Mike Fahey is regarded by many within the party as the only candidate capable of making this race competitive. Fahey said last month that he would consider running for the seat if it came open and has huddled with Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Chuck Schumer (N.Y.) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (Nev.) to discuss a bid.

All of this speculation may be moot if Hagel decides to run for a third term. But in the meantime it's pretty fun, right? If you're looking for more ways to kill time in anticipation of Hagel's 11 a.m. ET announcement, check out The Fix's case for and case against a Hagel presidential bid.

By Chris Cillizza  |  March 12, 2007; 8:20 AM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008 , Senate  
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