And Mr. Hagel would obviously be an asset to any Bloomberg ticket, providing vital attributes that the Mayor now lacks: a decorated Vietnam combat record, foreign-policy fluency, a dozen years of legislative experience and widespread respect among the national press corps and Washington insiders. And it goes without saying that Mr. Hagel’s principled breaks with his party and its President will play well with independent voters, and a good chunk of Democrats and Republicans as well.
But Mr. Hagel’s appeal as a Vice Presidential candidate may not quite match the expectations of insiders. The problem is that he is mostly an unknown commodity among the masses right now, a name recognized by fewer than 40 percent of voters in a recent survey. Running for the G.O.P. nomination—and faring respectably—would take care of that problem. But since he’s wandered so far off the reservation—and wasted so much time—it’s no longer realistic to believe Mr. Hagel could rise much above asterisk status in the G.O.P. race.
Mr. Hagel’s standing right now is similar to that of John McCain in 1999, when insiders saw his potentially wide appeal, even though few voters had heard of him. Mr. McCain’s stunning New Hampshire win and subsequent martyrdom turned him into the most popular political figure in the country, one who would have made a formidable independent candidate himself in 2000 had he switched gears after the primaries.
But such political deification will elude Mr. Hagel. He may well end up running for national office next year. But if he does, it will be as the lesser-known sidekick of New York’s Mayor. Not as a rock star.