But inside the White House, the choice makes sense. It appeals to Obama’s bipartisan spirit — and the optics aren’t bad, either — to have any Republican as Defense secretary when Obama is seeking to end the war in Afghanistan and dramatically reduce the Pentagon’s budget. Hagel brings even more credibility to the task because he’s a decorated Vietnam veteran and would be the first from that war to lead the Pentagon…

A Democratic official who believes Hagel will be confirmed stressed that once he is formally nominated, the Nebraskan will have enthusiastic support from veterans organizations. Hagel would be the first defense secretary who served as an enlisted man — an idea that will be popular with the troops, the official said, and Hagel’s defenders are sure to emphasize that he earned two Purple Hearts and still carries shrapnel in his chest…

Senior Republicans said there is no natural base for Hagel despite his years in the Senate.

“I can’t imagine why [Obama] would choose to burn his political capital on this nomination. For what? There is no constituency for Chuck Hagel,” one senior GOP aide said. “Obama will expend every ounce of political capital he has to get him across the finish line. Dems will hate this.”