Susan Davis reports on the presidential race.

The buzz this week that Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska is planning to join Sen. Barack Obama on an up-coming visit to Iraq is correct, two sources with knowledge of the trip confirmed Friday.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel, center, is joined by Democratic Sens. Joe Biden of Delaware, left, and Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, right, in a news conference on Capitol Hill on January 17, 2007 in Washington, D.C., to oppose the president’s troop increase in Iraq. (Getty)

A spokesman for Sen. Obama declined to comment on any details or even confirm the date uncertain trip, citing security concerns. A spokesman for Sen. Hagel did not respond to requests for comment.

While it is standard practice for such trips—known as CODELS, or congressional delegations—to be bipartisan, in this highly charged election year it is likely to raise eyebrows that the retiring Nebraskan senator—a prominent Iraq War critic—is the Republican expected to join the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee on what is sure to be a closely watched visit to the region.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that Sen. Hagel has not yet endorsed a candidate in the race, and he has offered kind words for both Obama and Republican rival Sen. John McCain, although the two Republicans differ greatly on the war.

Hagel’s name has also been mentioned in the chatter over Obama’s running mate—he told the Associated Press in June that he would consider a vice presidential invitation, although he conceded such an offer is unlikely. Hagel has also been discussed as a speculative candidate for a Cabinet post if Obama is elected in November.

Republicans have sought to make an issue of Obama’s scarcity of visits to Iraq a campaign issue—the Illinois senator has not visited Iraq since Jan. 2006. The Republican National Committee’s Web site features a clock counting down the days—915 current—since his last visit. Sen. McCain, in contrast, has made eight trips since the war began in 2003.

A vocal critic of both the Iraq War and the Bush administration, Hagel mulled a run for the White House last year, but opted out of the race. He announced he was retiring from the U.S. Senate in Sept. 2007.

In a Tuesday interview with MSNBC, senior Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod also offered kind words for the Nebraska senator. “Sen. Hagel, I think, has been very courageous in speaking out on this issue of Iraq and the misguided policies that we’ve had from the beginning.” Axelrod declined to comment when asked then if Hagel would join Obama on the Iraq visit.

Hagel’s potential bipartisan alliance with Obama would be an interesting contrast to the relationship shared by McCain and 2004 Democratic Vice Presidential candidate Sen. Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, an Independent who caucuses with Democrats.

Lieberman is supporting McCain in the White House campaign because of their mutual support of the ongoing war and like-mindedness on foreign policy and national security matters. Lieberman traveled with McCain on his most recent visit to Iraq in March.