As the Republican primary becomes even murkier, one cannot help wondering whether there was once a Republican candidate who would have been the perfect mix of what the electorate is looking for.
In many ways, that candidate could have been retiring Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel. Hagel is a social conservative down the line, on abortion, gay rights, and on gun control. He supported President Bush on social (and economic) issues more than any other senator. Hagel would have none of the problems of Rudy Giuliani or Mitt Romney (or even Fred Thompson) on convincing the Republican base that he support them on social issues.
However, on the issue of the Iraq War is really where Hagel would have thrived. While Hagel is a Vietnam veteran, like Senator John McCain, he has been one of the most consistently critical Republican voices on the war. Hagel can say, in a way that no other Republican presidential candidate short of Congressman Ron Paul can, that on this issue he has stood up against President Bush.
Hagel is the only candidate who would keep both the socially conservative fringe and the increasingly anti-war center together in his party. Without him, the Republicans will have a difficult time in 2008.