Will Chuck Hagel Hurt the Republicans?

There has been a lot of comment on Chuck Hagel’s appearance yesterday on Face the Nation. Hagel said he is interested in making a third-party run for President, likely paired with Mayor Mike Bloomberg:

It’s a great country to think about – a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation.

Hagel attributed his interest in a third-party run to the claim that the Republican Parth has been “hijacked.” But his characterization of the supposed “hijacking” was incoherent:

It’s been hijacked by a group of single-minded almost isolationists, insulationists, power-projectors.

“Isolationist power-projectors?” That’s a previously unknown species; maybe it means something similar to “neocons.”
The Face the Nation roundtable seemed to take Hagel almost as seriously as he takes himself:

“It’s the kind of thing that it’s so tantalizing, I think it meets a need not just with the political system but with the public,” said Michelle McQueen Martin of National Public Radio. “I mean, you see a yearning within the public for another option.”

Maybe people at NPR are yearning for a candidate like Hagel; I know some Republicans who are yearning for a new candidate, but it isn’t Hagel: it’s Fred Thompson or Newt Gingrich.
Which brings us to the question: if Hagel runs, will he hurt the Republican candidate, or the Democrat? I find the suggestion that Hagel’s run would hurt a Republican Presidential candidate, which I’ve seen in a couple of places, rather ludicrous. Hagel is widely despised within the party, and the last poll I saw had him at 1% among Republicans. My guess is that a large majority of those “yearning” for a Hagel candidacy would otherwise vote for the Democrat.
One last point: It is not unusual for a person to find himself out of step with a political party to which he has belonged for many years. This happened, for example, to millions of “Reagan Democrats,” many of whom became Reagan Republicans. It even happens to Senators, like Ben Nighthorse Campbell. I’ve noticed a difference, though, in the media treatment accorded those who conclude that their party has been “hijacked.” If they are Republicans, they are generally viewed as sages who are tragically being ignored by their benighted party. I don’t recall the Reagan Democrats, or many of the other Democrats who have bemoaned their party’s direction over the years, being treated that way.

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