Republicans have lost their way when it comes to many core GOP principles and may be in jeopardy heading into the fall elections, Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb. says. Hagel, a possible presidential candidate in 2008, said Sunday that the GOP today is very different party from the one when he first voted Republican.
“First time I voted was in 1968 on top of a tank in the Mekong Delta,” said Hagel, a Vietnam veteran. “I voted a straight Republican ticket. The reason I did is because I believe in the Republican philosophy of governance. It’s not what it used to be. I don’t think it’s the same today.”
Hagel asked: “Where is the fiscal responsibility of the party I joined in ’68? Where is the international engagement of the party I joined — fair, free trade, individual responsibility, not building a bigger government, but building a smaller government?”
His frustration does not lead him to think Democrats offer a better alternative. But Hagel wants to see the GOP return to its basic beliefs.
“I think we’ve lost our way,” Hagel said. “And I think the Republicans are going to be in some jeopardy for that and will be held accountable.”
Hagel has not decided whether he will run for president in 2008. But he respects his wife’s reservations about being first lady — cited in a book about Hagel.
“I think it just shows the immense good judgment of my wife and how sane she is. I don’t know of any spouse who would wish the job of president on their husband or wife,” Hagel said on Fox News Sunday. “It’s a big job. It’s a tough job.”
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Sunday that in some parts of the country, the fall elections may turn out to be a referendum on the war in Iraq.
“Most of time we know these elections are local, but it’s beginning to look more like some of them may be global as far as they are impacted by Iraq,” he said. “We’ve got to fight hard. We’ve got to win. We need to keep both houses of Congress.”
McCain predicted Republicans will retain control of the Senate but said it is too early to tell if they can keep the House.
“This is a very tough election coming up,” he said.
“The war is difficult. The president is not getting enough credit for a good economy which we have today,” he said.
McCain, a potential presidential candidate for 2008, appeared on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton matches up well against Sen. John McCain in early polling about a possible presidential contest in 2008.
A Time magazine poll released Sunday found McCain, R-Ariz., at 49 percent and Clinton, D-N.Y., at 47 percent among registered voters when people were asked which candidate they would support for president if they had to decide now.
McCain had a 10-point lead over the Democratic nominee from 2004, Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, and a 9-point lead over 2000 Democratic nominee Al Gore in similar matchups.
Fifty-six percent of those surveyed said they have a favorable opinion of McCain and 53 percent said they have a favorable view of Clinton.
While Clinton is an early favorite to win the Democratic nomination for president, some have voiced concerns whether she be competitive with the Republican candidate in the general election.
The poll of 1,003 adults was taken July 13-17 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.
Associated Press Writers Will Lester and Michael Sniffen contributed to this story.
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