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GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel to announce political plans

Story Highlights

• Sen. Hagel will make an announcement about his plans Monday
• Hagel is considered a potential candidate for the GOP presidential nomination
• The two-term senator is an outspoken critic of the war in Iraq
• Polls show Hagel trailing the pack of other potential contenders
From Dana Bash
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is expected to announce his decision on a presidential race Monday in his home state of Nebraska.

Hagel's advisers would not confirm that the two-term senator planned to announce his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, but Hagel said in January he would make a decision about a presidential run soon.

Hagel, 60, also is scheduled to appear next week at a forum for presidential hopefuls put on by the International Association of Firefighters.

Hagel, a decorated infantry sergeant in Vietnam, supported the 2002 congressional resolution that authorized the invasion of Iraq the following year, but he has since become an outspoken critic of the war.

He called President Bush's plan to increase U.S. troops in Iraq "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."

Hagel joined six other Republicans last month to back a non-binding resolution opposing the troop increase, a measure that failed on a procedural vote.

In a newly published interview in Esquire magazine, Hagel said Bush appears to believe he's no longer accountable, "which isn't totally true. You can impeach him, and before this is over, you might see calls for his impeachment. I don't know. It depends how this goes."

Other than his break with the party on Iraq, Hagel has an an orthodox GOP voting record. He supported the Bush tax cuts in 2001, has a perfect score on abortion issues from the National Right to Life Committee and backed efforts to open part of Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil exploration.

Polls suggest he will face an uphill battle in the GOP primaries, which have already drawn a crowded field. (Gallery: Possible contenders)

A CNN/WMUR poll conducted in February found him trailing the pack among potential GOP voters in the first primary state of New Hampshire, drawing 1 percent support.

A national poll, conducted for CNN by Opinion Research Corp. in January, also put him at 1 percent among registered Republicans. By comparison, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani led that survey at 32 percent, while Arizona Sen. John McCain, Hagel's friend and frequent ally, came in at 26 percent.

McCain, also a Vietnam veteran, is a leading supporter of Bush's decision to bolster the U.S. contingent there. McCain said having an anti-war candidate in the race "will certainly add another element" to the GOP contests, "because everybody else... at least to some degree or another, says they support [the war]."

"I'm sure he'll be a good campaigner," McCain said. "He's a very articulate, attractive, handsome man with an impressive record. Not better looking than me."

Hagel's second term in the Senate is up in 2008.

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