Udall meets with Hagel as new TV ad goes up in Colorado

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DENVER — Colorado Sen. Mark Udall met with former GOP Sen. Chuck Hagel, President Obama’s nominee to be the country’s next defense secretary, on Tuesday morning, FOX31 Denver has confirmed. 

The meeting took place in Washington just as a group opposing Hagel’s nomination went up on Colorado’s airwaves with a new TV ad pressuring Udall to vote no.

The group Americans for a Strong Defense, formed by a former Mitt Romney campaign adviser and other conservatives, is pressuring Democratic senators in moderate or red-hued states who face reelection in 2014 to oppose Hagel’s nomination.

Udall, a Democrat, faces reelection next year and who has yet to indicate whether or not he’ll be supporting Hagel’s nomination.

Following the meeting, Udall’s staff would not promise the senator’s support for Hagel, but indicated that it might be forthcoming.

“I think we can say that as a general rule, Mark feels that the President’s cabinet nominations should be respected,” spokesman Mike Saccone told FOX31 Denver Tuesday afternoon.

“Even so, there are a large number of challenges and critical issues for our national security and our military that the next Secretary of Defense will face, and Mark feels that it’s important to actively engage Hagel on those issues.”

According to Saccone, Udall’s questions focused on energy security, the threat of a nuclear Iran, the implementation of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and the equal treatment of gay and lesbian members of the military, and the importance of assisting and treating returning troops suffering from PTSD.

“Sen. Udall and Hagel had a lengthy and insightful conversation this morning about a number of topics, and Mark looks forward to continuing the discussion at Hagel’s nomination hearing,” Saccone said.

Although Hagel is a former Republican senator from Nebraska, his opposition to the war in Iraq, a major reason why President Obama nominated him to the post, rankles neoconservatives who don’t think he’s hawkish enough; and, on the flip side, some Democrats worry that he’s too conservative.

The new ad refers to threats from Iran, North Korea and Russia, before turning to Hagel, who, a narrator argues, “wants America to back down…an end to our nuclear program…devastating defense cuts…a weaker country.”

Then the ad asks viewers to call Udall and Sen. Michael Bennet to “tell them to say no before it’s too late.”

Bennet has yet to meet with Hagel and plans to schedule a meeting prior to the confirmation hearing next Thursday.

Other Democratic senators who had initial concerns about the GOP senator’s record and past statements about Israel, Sen. Charles Schumer of New York and Sen. Barbara Boxer of California, have already met with Hagel and indicated that they will support the nomination, a hint that Obama’s top choice for the Defense post will likely make it through Senate hearings set for next week.