The nomination of former senator Chuck Hagel to lead the Pentagon has set in motion a highly unusual campaign-style brawl over a Cabinet post long considered above politics.
Supporters and opponents are raising money and building political organizations in anticipation of a grueling and contentious Senate confirmation process.
The opponents, led by a conservative group called the Emergency Committee for Israel, began airing attack ads soon after the Nebraska Republican’s name surfaced weeks ago and on Monday rolled out a Web site, chuckhagel.com, to lay out its case against him. The group has questioned Hagel’s commitment to the security of the Jewish state and accused him of being soft on Iran.
White House officials, meanwhile, have begun an aggressive push to introduce “the real Chuck Hagel,” recruiting high-profile endorsements and contacting potential critics in an effort to neutralize opposition. For the first time since his name was floated, “the White House is putting its full muscle” behind Hagel, said a person familiar with the process.