Republicans Launch Opening Salvos Against Hillary Clinton

04/12/2015 06:19 pm ET | Updated Jun 12, 2015

WASHINGTON, April 12 (Reuters) - Many Republicans, including two presidential candidates, other possible contenders and party activists, quickly mounted a full-force campaign against Democrat Hillary Clinton on Sunday, with some starting the fight before her official announcement that she was running for president.

The nominating conventions for both parties are more than a year away, and the November 2016 election is 19 months in the future, but Clinton has long been considered her party's front-runner and Republicans have been revving up to oppose her run.

On Sunday afternoon, a photo of the former secretary of state topped the home page of GOP.com, the website for the Republican National Committee, adorned with a stop sign reading "Stop Hillary."

Republican shots came throughout the day in messages to supporters, statements, interviews and tweets that attacked Clinton's entire career, including her time as first lady when her husband, former President Bill Clinton, occupied the Oval Office.

But most of the criticism focused on her 2009-2013 tenure as secretary of state, especially her handling of the attack on a U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, foreign donations to the Clinton Foundation, and her use of a personal email account. Many came with requests for donations and pitches for campaign merchandising.

Here are some reactions:

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, widely expected to seek the Republican nomination, tweeted that "As Secretary of State @HillaryClinton was the architect of the failed foreign policy we're seeing executed by President Obama today."

The political action committee associated with Walker, Our American Revival, then sought signatures for a petition to "speak out against Hillary Clinton's dangerous liberal record."

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, who is expected to make a bid for the White House, tweeted after the announcement: "We must do better than Hillary" and directed people to sign up at the website for the political action committee Right to Rise to "Stop Hillary."

Hours before Clinton's announcement, Bush released a video saying: "We must to do better than the Obama-Clinton foreign policy that has damaged relationships with our allies and emboldened our enemies."

Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who launched his 2016 presidential campaign last week, posted the first anti-Clinton video advertisement after he made the rounds of talk shows on Sunday to criticize Clinton's foreign policy and began selling merchandise stamped with the slogan "Liberty not Hillary."

In the ad, a woman's voice said: "Hillary Clinton represents the worst of the Washington machine - the arrogance of power, corruption and cover-up, conflicts of interest and failed leadership with tragic consequences."

Texas Senator Ted Cruz, also seeking the Republican nomination, released a video and statement saying that electing Clinton was akin to giving current President Barack Obama a third term, and slamming Clinton's foreign policy record.

"She designed and implemented 'leading from behind.' On her watch we have witnessed the rise of Russia, Iran, and ISIS (Islamic State)," he said. "We know that a Hillary Clinton Administration would be no different than an Obama Administration. Obamacare, amnesty, and the ongoing assault on our constitutional rights would continue."

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus emailed a statement eight minutes after the campaign launch:

"Over decades as a Washington insider, Clinton has left a trail of secrecy, scandal, and failed policies that can't be erased from voters' minds. The Clintons believe they can play by a different set of rules and think they're above transparency, accountability, and ethics."

Florida Senator Marco Rubio, expected to announce his bid for the Republican nomination this week, simply tweeted: "Ready for Monday." New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, another anticipated Republican contender, was silent.

(Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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