In 2008 the strongest Republican candidate will likely be the one with the most rhetorical daylight from the Bush Administration's national security policies. That is not John McCain who has actively courted Bush's supporters.
Hagel has carved a niche as a traditional Republican realist on foreign policy. Other candidates may attempt to break with the Administration in 2008 but will appear opportunistic in doing so. Chris Shays for example is vulnerable to ridicule because he conveniently flip-flopped on Iraq three months prior to facing the wrath of disgruntled Connecticut voters. It's an obvious deathbed conversion with no credibility.
Hagel is different because he rhetorically challenged the rationale of Bush's policies in Iraq even more than some Democrats in recent years. Furthermore, Hagel has rhetorically challenged Bush for portraying dissent as unpatriotic...Nonetheless, it's perception that counts and the press appears eager to anoint the former Vietnam veteran as a sensible and tough centrist who is up to the job.
It's not hard to see Hagel prevailing in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. Even conservative Iowans are far less enthusiastic about Bush's foreign policy. Disenchantment with the Iraq war will only increase nationwide the next two years and probably more so in Iowa...For good measure he might also be able to say, "I'm the only candidate who can appeal to Democrats and independents in a general election."
So two years from now the headlines may read, "Republican nominee Chuck Hagel declared he's the one to get America out of Iraq." There will be the necessary platitudes about prudence, coordination with allies, and a methodical withdrawal that preserves our strategic interests. But the message that will stick is only the sensible conservative and military veteran Chuck Hagel can get us out of Iraq. That is powerful.
You can check out the rest of the post here. I can't say I agree with all of it, but it raises some interesting points.