“Senator Hagel has no intention of getting involved in any of the campaigns and is not planning to endorse either candidate,” Hagel spokesman Jordan Stark said in a statement to USA TODAY. The bigger bombshell is that Hagel won’t even be attending the Republican convention.
Of course Hagel isn’t alone in skipping the and late summer funeral for the Grand Old Party, he will be joined by fellow senators Ted Stevens of Alaska, Gordon Smith of Oregon, Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina and Susan Collins of Maine all of whom are locked in tough reelection contests and want to avoid being seen with Bush and McCain. Wayne Allard of Colorado and Larry Craig of Idaho also won’t be there because they are retiring.
Hagel himself is set to retire at the end of his current term, but he and McCain are friends, who strongly disagree about the war in Iraq. It is probable that his friendship for McCain is what caused him to sit this one out. However, Hagel’s decision leaves the door open for him to serve in a potential Obama administration. Hagel accompanied Obama on his recent Iraq trip, so it would not be a surprise to see him involved if Obama wins the election.
How bad are things for the Republican Party right now? One seventh of their Senate delegation has already announced that they won’t be attending the convention where one of their own accepts their party’s nomination. In modern political history, I don’t think that this has ever happened before. The party’s brand is so tainted right now, that many Republicans will skip their own convention, just to avoid the taint of the GOP.