Dan Drezner tries to figure out what the supporters of the anti-Hagel lobbying groups are trying to achieve:
Again, I get the opposition to Hagel from some in the GOP. What I don’t get is what anyone donating to these groups thinks they’re going to accomplish [bold mine-DL]. The moment Chuck Schumer endorsed Hagel’s selection, this ballgame was over. No Senate election two years from now will hinge on this confirmation vote because — just to remind everyone for the nth time — voters don’t care about international relations. The most plausible story one could gin up is that by fighting the good fight now, a marker has been laid down for future nominations. Except that since the reputation for power is a form of power itself, the groups that fight this and lose won’t seem terribly imposing for the next critical vote. If I was a wealthy GOP donor who cared a lot about foreign policy and national security issues, there are at least ten other ways to spend this money that would be more efficient than trying to oppose Hagel right now.
Drezner is right that groups that are throwing money into an anti-Hagel fight are throwing that money away. The most straightforward explanation for this is that the groups and their supporters are wrongly assuming that there is much more potential opposition to Hagel in the Senate than there really is. The thinking seems to be that there are numerous Senators just waiting to be pushed into voting no, and outside a core group of Republicans that doesn’t appear to be the case. Schumer’s support for Hagel was never seriously in doubt, but anti-Hagel activists believed that Schumer was a real obstacle to confirmation. Anti-Hagel hawks are betting that “pro-Israel” Democrats will feel compelled to vote against Hagel, but this is based on their distorted view of Hagel’s views regarding Israel and other issues, and Senate Democrats don’t share that view. They don’t agree that Hagel is “weak” on Israel or Iran, so they don’t fear that they will appear “weak” by voting for him. Republican voters aren’t all on one side of the Hagel question, and no Republican incumbent is going to face a primary challenge because he votes to confirm.
Democratic Senators from the South might seem like better targets for hawkish pressure groups, but the Senators that are being targeted by one of the groups (Pryor, Landrieu, and Hagan) gain nothing by voting against Hagel, they risk burning bridges with the administration if they do so, and they will still be targeted for defeat by the NRSC in the midterms anyway. If this were a vote on major legislation or a vote on an authorization of force, red-state Democrats might be more susceptible to such pressure tactics, but on a vote for a Cabinet nomination there are simply too many reasons for Senate Democrats to vote yes for these tactics to be effective. On the other side, Senate Republicans have several incentives to vote yes, chief among them being the knowledge that they would be the political losers if they chose to filibuster a fellow Republican’s appointment to the Cabinet.