There are some, though, who see a plausible scenario in which Hagel could at least have a serious impact on the Republican race. Once it becomes clear this fall that the surge is a failure, veteran Republican strategist Roger Stone says, there will be “the opportunity for a late-blooming anti-war candidacy.” “There will be a growing plurality of Republicans who believe this war is folly,” said Stone, who officially supports McCain but has been disappointed with the Arizonan’s effort to curry favor with conservatives. “In New York and Pennsylvania and Southern California, they believe [the war was a mistake]. By 2008 the heartland will believe that, too.” Stone likened Hagel to former Rep. Pete McCloskey, the California Republican who opposed the Vietnam War and mounted an anti-war bid against President Richard Nixon in 1972. But Stone says that unlike McCloskey—who, like Hagel, was a decorated combat veteran—the Nebraskan would benefit from the multi-candidate Republican field. The 11 percent McCloskey drew in the New Hampshire primary on a peace platform could prove more significant in a race where many candidates split the vote. “It’s quixotic, no question about it, but all he’s got to do is produce a significant number of votes in Iowa and New Hampshire and the rest will take care of itself,” Stone argued. “The media bump would let him ride an anti-war streak through the rest of the primaries.” By the time such larger states as Florida, California, New Jersey and New York hold primaries on February 5, Hagel would be in a good position. “It’s a mistake to underestimate among suburban Republicans how unpopular the war is,” Stone said. If nothing else, Hagel’s entry into the field would shake up the Republican primary, Stone said. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and ex-New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani will both be “sounding more like Hagel by the fall” on the war. Even with little grassroots support, his candidacy as a Republican would find a home on the television news. His snappy sound-bites and willingness to harpoon fellow Republicans already make him a television talk-show staple, and a GOP bid premised on opposition to Iraq would only elevate his presence on the tube. He’d seek to force the Republican primary conversation about Iraq, a topic each of the current top GOP contenders know will damage them in the general election. And if he runs as an independent? With a lifetime American Conservative Union rating north of 85, Hagel would make it difficult for Republicans to peg him as squishy liberal. Finally, there is probably no Enlisted Infantrymen for Truth group at the ready to claim that Sgt. Hagel didn’t earn his two Purple Hearts in Vietnam the hard way. - more at www.politico.com/news/stories/0307/3077.html Senator Hagel is to announce whether he will run for president or not on Monday, March 12.