The dust from the GOP's mid-term lambaste of the Democrats had barely settled when the declaration was made that the day after the elections was the unofficial start of the 2016 presidential campaign. This was more than a little overstated and misleading. It's far more accurate to say that the day after the mid-terms was the moment when the GOP would ramp up its drive to stop Hillary Clinton in her presidential tracks even before she takes a first official step in those tracks. Kentucky Senator Rand Paul wasted no time in laying into Clinton claiming that the GOP Senate walk-over was a decisive repudiation of Clinton. Paul based that overblown dig at her on the fact that she had been busy on the campaign trail trying to bolster the election and reelection fortunes of Democratic senators and Senate candidates.
Paul and the GOP's "stop Hillary" crusade is absolutely crucial for this simple reason. It now controls the Senate, the House, has a GOP-compliant Supreme Court, as well as massive numbers of strict constructionist, GOP appointed judges on the federal bench, and a majority of the governorships and legislatures in the states. The final and most important missing piece in the GOP total dominance end game is, of course, the White House. That can only mean Hillary.
The assault on her began well before the mid-terms. A year earlier there were assorted "spontaneous" stop Hillary websites, blogs, and columns that flatly declared the goal was to prevent her from declaring her candidacy, or preventing that, poison the political well to the point where she was viewed as variously a liar, shady, incompetent, and a bungler especially on foreign policy issues. The stop Hillary drive got quasi-official traction when former Mitt Romney campaign manager, Matt Rhodes, founded America Rising as an LLC. It quickly raised tens of thousands, and boasted that it had corralled more than a quarter million backers. It had only one aim and that was to put a boots on the ground truth squad to track, monitor, hector, and "expose" the real Hillary Clinton. They even announced that they would send camera carrying trackers to shadow Clinton at her book signing stops.
The faux GOP groups aren't banking solely on shoveling dirt on Hillary to render her candidacy stillborn. They also bank that the supposed baggage that she carries renders her an astonishingly divisive candidate. The checklist of the trumped-up scandals of the past from Whitewater to the Lewinsky scandal, her tout of health care reform, which was the prelude to the much harangued Affordable Care Act, and most importantly her alleged cover-up of Benghazi. It Benghazi proved to be the alleged flub and the GOP pounced. The Republican National Committee rammed the attack home with a half-minute clip of her Senate Foreign Relations Committee testimony in January 2013 on the Benghazi attack. The aim as always was to embarrass and discredit her not because of her alleged missteps as Secretary of State, but as a 2016 presidential candidate.
The effort has paid a few mild dividends so far. A Quinnipiac University poll in May 2013 found that Clinton's favorability rating had dropped and that former Florida governor Jeb Bush and Rand Paul, both rumored as possible GOP presidential contenders, were actually within striking distance of Clinton in a head-to-head presidential match up.
Though the poll didn't single out any one factor to explain the downtick in her favorability rating, the one intangible is the doubt many voters have that her past, her views, and her political style, would mark her as a relentless target for GOP attacks once in the White House, and thus hamstring her effectiveness in getting things done. If she faced a House and Senate firmly controlled by the GOP, it would be nothing but a virtual rerun of the rancor, in-fighting, and carping that has been the singular feature of the GOP's non-stop, unbroken assault on Obama. In short, as president, she would not be able to get much done no matter her agenda with Congress, and the big loser would again be the country. The lines would be rigidly drawn. The brutal warfare between a Clinton White House and a GOP-dominated Congress would quickly spill over into the public and the media.
The GOP has yet another ploy to derail a Clinton presidential bid. And that's to paint her presidency as a Siamese Twin version of Obama's. Expect this theme to be heard even louder in the weeks to come now that the notion has been firmly implanted in much of the public's mind that Obama's supposedly failed leadership, incompetence, and mangled policies was the single biggest cause of voter anger, disgust and dissatisfaction with him and government.
The ideal scenario for the GOP is for her not to run. And with the clock running down on the Democrat's ability to find and groom a viable presidential contender in the event of a Clinton non-run, this would make it that much easier for the GOP to pitch whomever their candidate is as the best bet for the White House. The GOP's taking dead aim at knocking Clinton out the White House box is crude, calculating and cynical but it bets that it will ultimately work.
Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. He is a frequent political commentator on MSNBC and a weekly co-host of the Al Sharpton Show on American Urban Radio Network. He is the author of How Obama Governed: The Year of Crisis and Challenge. He is an associate editor of New America Media. He is the host of the weekly Hutchinson Report on KPFK-Radio and the Pacifica Network.