WASHINGTON – Don't count on the possibility that Sen. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., might run for president next year as an independent.
In May, Hagel said people might want to consider an independent ticket that paired the senator with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Just last month, Bloomberg quit the GOP and registered as unaffiliated.
Hagel said Sunday he has no intention of leaving the Republican Party. "That doesn't mean, by the way, that I don't think an independent does not have some renewed possibilities next year," he added.
Asked in a broadcast interview if he were ruling out an independent bid for the White House, the two-term senator said, "For right now I am. And what the world looks like next year, I don't know. But I have no plans to change parties or run for president as an independent."
Later, however, he hedged a bit. "You try to keep as many options open for yourself in life as you can. And you try to be in a position where you've got some opportunities," Hagel said.
Hagel faces re-election next year and said he would decide in the next few months about his political future, including a presidential run.
"I also have said and said this when I first ran for the Senate after I got elected in 1996 that 12 years, two terms may be enough and that's another option," Hagel said.
"And then if there might be a place for me along the presidential road somewhere to try to have some influence and change the course of this country, then I'll look at that. But the decision needs to be made soon and I'll make it soon," he added.
In May, Hagel said Republican Party had been led astray by some and it might be time for an independent presidential ticket.
He explained that the GOP no longer was the party of "Eisenhower, of Goldwater, of Reagan," but rather a group hijacked by "single-minded, almost isolationist insulationists, power-projectors."
Hagel was interview Sunday on "Meet the Press" on NBC