Nebraskans should send former Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.) back to the Senate on Tuesday because he has a history of working across the aisle and would help end partisan gridlock, former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel said today in endorsing his former colleague.
Some polls have shown the race between Kerrey and Republican Deb Fischer tightening in recent days.
Hagel, who stressed that he is still a Republican, noted that Kerrey has also received endorsements from other Republican former Senators, including Alan Simpson of Wyoming, who co-chaired a commission that proposed cutting the deficit by $4 trillion over 10 years. Kerrey has also won the support from New Hampshire's Warren Rudman, who helped draft the 1980s budget agreement known as the Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act.
Asked why he decided to endorse Kerrey now, Hagel said he hopes that the timing, coming less than a week before Election Day, would help put Kerrey over the top.
“Hopefully you do it at a time where and when it's most effective,” Hagel said. “If I had endorsed Bob Kerrey a month or two ago, I am not sure it would have the same effect.”
“Bob had to show people in this state that he can win this race, and he’s done that,” Hagel said.
Hagel has endorsed a number of candidates during his political career, including Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) in his come-from-behind 1998 race for governor.
“Maybe I helped,” Hagel said wryly.
Johanns, who is friends with Hagel, said he chalks up Hagel's support for Kerrey as an attempt to curry favor with the Obama administration in hopes of winning a cabinet post should the president be re-elected.
“I think Chuck would love to think he's on the list to be secretary of something,” Johanns said at a press conference where the state's top Republicans rallied around Fischer, the Omaha World Herald reported.
Asked about the comment, Hagel said he had already turned down Obama administration job offers.
“I’ve never told anybody this, but I don’t think the president would mind. I’ve turned down a lot of pretty important jobs when the president himself asked me,” Hagel said, declining to provide any details.
The tightening of the race has drawn increased interest from outside groups. VoteVets, a liberal group, announced today that it spent $300,000 on a new ad backing Kerrey, who, like Hagel, is a decorated Vietnam veteran.