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Hagel hints at a 2008 run with New York's Bloomberg

Story Highlights

• Nebraska senator says he'll decide by end of summer whether to run
• Hagel has met with New York mayor Bloomberg, who is also thinking about run
• Hagel predicts president "may find himself standing alone" on Iraq by fall
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Expressing dismay over the Republican Party's trajectory, Sen. Chuck Hagel said Sunday that an independent presidential bid would be good for the nation.

And Hagel, R-Nebraska, did not rule out the possibility that he might be the one to do it, perhaps in alliance with New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg.

"I am not happy with the Republican Party today," the self-described lifelong Republican from Nebraska told CBS' "Face the Nation." "It's been hijacked by a group of single-minded, almost isolationist insulationists, power-projectors," he said.

Hagel said he would decide by late summer whether to run for president.

"I think a credible third party would be good for the system," he said. "It would force both parties that have been hijacked by the extremes of their two parties -- and I think we would want something like that.

"I would hope this country has some options like that. I think it shakes the system up. The system needs to be shaken up."

Any independent presidential bid remains a long shot. Former Republican strategist Ed Rollins notes that while Ross Perot won 19 percent of the popular vote in his 1992 race against Bill Clinton and incumbent George W. Bush, Perot took no electoral votes.

Hagel, who was among the first Republicans to break with the president over the war in Iraq, said Bush "may find himself standing alone sometime this fall" as other Republicans break with his leadership.

"You're starting to see trap doors and exit signs already, with a number of Republicans," the decorated Vietnam War veteran said. "We're in serious trouble in the world today. We are destroying our military -- our Marines and our Army."

Hagel last month voted with Democrats on legislation that called for a deadline for withdrawing troops from Iraq. Bush later vetoed the legislation.

Hagel met recently with Bloomberg, who has said he, too, is contemplating a possible presidential bid.

The senator would not reveal their discussions, other than to say, "Well, we didn't make any deals. But I think Mayor Bloomberg is the kind of individual who should seriously think about this. I think he is."

Bloomberg, a former Democrat turned Republican, differs from the mainstream of his current party. He's for gun control, tough on global warming, and has even sought to ban artery clogging trans fats from New York City eateries.

And he wants to loosen immigration restrictions, a stance that appeals to big business.

A Rasmussen survey conducted April 2-3 put an independent Bloomberg in a three-way race with Democrat Hillary Clinton and a Republican -- either former New York mayor Rudy Guiliani or Sen. John McCain of Arizona. Support for Bloomberg was less than 10 percent.

But a New York Daily News Poll released Monday, 46 percent of New Yorkers chose Bloomberg while only 29 percent chose Giuliani in a head-to-head matchup of the two mayors.

Moreover, the poll also indicates New Yorkers believe Bloomberg to be a better mayor than Giuliani. Asked who was a more effective mayor, 56 percent said Bloomberg while 29 percent picked Giuliani. 10 percent ranked them about the same and 5 percent said they didn't know.

The poll, conducted for the Daily News by Blum & Weprin Associates, surveyed 503 registered voters and carries a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percentage points.

Bloomberg does have supporters. A Web site,, seeks donations to "Help develop the grassroots network that will support Mayor Bloomberg's decision to run."

"Your financial support will ensure that we can shake up the Big Two with the most qualified government administrator on the planet," the Committee to Draft Michael Bloomberg says on the site.

A New York Post story last week quoted a "top New York Republican" as saying that Bloomberg wasn't considering a run for president because he was getting in the race to run for governor of New York.

But Bloomberg quickly shot that story down, telling Reuters, "I have absolutely no interest, categorically, I have never had a conversation about [the governor's race]. I think the closest I'd ever come, maybe two years ago when they were looking for a candidate [for governor], somebody said, 'Would you run?' and I said no thank you. I have no interest whatsoever."

Former New York mayor Ed Koch said he thinks Bloomberg will join the presidential race, but is wisely conserving time and energy.

"I think he is playing it exactly right," Koch said. "He doesn't have to convey his full intentions until the end of this year. He doesn't have to spend the time the others are spending in raising money."

Bloomberg can avoid the fundraising because he can pay for a campaign himself. He is No. 112 on the Forbes magazine list of the world's billionaires with an estimated net worth in 2006 of $5.1 billion.

"If he runs for president, he could spend hundreds of millions" of dollars, said Time magazine senior political analyst Mark Halpern. "That would shake up the race."

Halpern also said Bloomberg might have strength as a Washington outsider.

"People are really unhappy with the direction of the country. They don't like the way things are going. They don't like the bickering in Washington," Halpern said. "People want someone who can come in and unify the country."

When Hagel was asked if he could see a ticket that had he and Bloomberg on it, Hagel said, "It's a great country to think about -- a New York boy and a Nebraska boy to be teamed up leading this nation."

CNN senior political analyst Bill Schneider contributed to this report.



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