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Hagel, Gingrich Consider US Presidential Bids


Two more notable Republicans are considering a run for U.S. president next year. We have details from VOA National correspondent Jim Malone in Washington.

Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich are well known within the Republican Party, and could have an impact on the 2008 race for the White House.

Hagel is expected to announce his plans on Monday.

The Washington Times newspaper says Hagel will join the presidential race, but there is no confirmation as yet from Hagel's office.

Although Hagel has a generally conservative voting record in the Senate, he has emerged as perhaps the most aggressive Republican critic of the war in Iraq.

Hagel spoke out against the president's troop increase in Iraq, the day after Mr. Bush announced the policy change in mid-January.

"I think this speech given last night by this president represents the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam, if it is carried out," he said. "I will resist it."

Kansas Senator Sam Brownback is the only announced Republican presidential contender who has spoken out against the troop surge. The leading Republican candidates support the plan, including former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Arizona Senator John McCain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney.

Washington-based political analyst Stuart Rothenberg says Hagel is a dynamic figure within the Republican Party. But Rothenberg questions whether the criticisms voiced by Hagel and Brownback will win support among Republican voters looking for a successor to President Bush in 2008.

"They are much more critical of the administration and of the way the war has developed," he said. "But it is unclear that there is a substantial anti-war element within the Republican Party at the moment."

Another prominent Republican, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, says he will wait until September to decide whether to join the presidential race.

But Gingrich appears to be reaching out to social conservatives, a signal that he may be serious about running next year.

Gingrich appeared on a radio program with James Dobson, a noted social conservative activist and head of a group called Focus on the Family.

In the interview, Gingrich admitted he was having an extramarital affair in 1998, even as he led the Republican congressional effort to impeach President Bill Clinton for lying about his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky.

"There were times when I was praying, and when I felt I was doing things that were wrong, but I was still doing them," he said. "And, I look back on those as periods of weakness and periods that I am not proud of."

Gingrich and former New York Mayor Giuliani have both been divorced twice, raising doubts about their ability to draw support from religious conservatives, a key constituency within the Republican Party.

Gingrich has repeatedly scored high in public opinion polls among Republican presidential hopefuls, even though he has not formally announced plans to join the race.

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