It's often said that, while Republicans done very well just defining themselves as the anti-Obama party and not developing a governing agenda of their own, that will have to change if they're going to win in 2016.
Today The New York Times reminds us that the GOP field respectfully disagrees:
At political fund-raisers and party conferences, over intimate dinners and in casual telephone calls, top contenders for the Republican presidential nomination are constructing an image of Mrs. Clinton that is relentlessly unappealing: as rusty and unloved, out of step and out of date, damaged and vulnerable....But obviously they're happy to inform the Times that their preferred candidates are planning to go substance-free in 2016.
For a candidate to be taken seriously, said Rick Wilson, a Republican consultant, “party leaders need to know that you have a game plan and a path to victory against Hillary.”
So to an unusual degree, given that she holds no office, Republican White House hopefuls are pitching their potential candidacies in relation to Mrs. Clinton's, building their message around her strengths and weaknesses and making the case for why they are best suited to challenge her, according to those who have spoken to them. These people -- donors, operatives and advisers -- talked on the condition of anonymity to avoid publicly betraying the confidence of powerful officials who may seek the presidency.
Rand Paul calls her a bloodthirsty neocon warmonger; Ted Cruz calls her a moderate. But mostly the candidates' critiques are of the Mean Girl variety:
Gov. Chris Christie offered a cutting assessment of Hillary Rodham Clinton's electoral weaknesses recently, telling a group of energy executives that she lacked her husband's political talents and personal appeal. To punctuate the point, the New Jersey governor mischievously quoted President Obama from a 2008 campaign debate. "You're likable enough, Hillary," Mr. Christie said, according to two participants.And here's my favorite bit:
Gov. Rick Perry of Texas was unsparing in his critique, citing lackluster sales of Mrs. Clinton's latest memoir as evidence that Americans have tired of her. "She's had a hard time selling books and filling auditoriums," he observed to a table of campaign contributors, recalled a guest who heard him.
And Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has mocked the wealthy Mrs. Clinton as out of touch with working-class voters, calling a country music video produced on her behalf recently so contrived that "I almost fell out of the chair laughing."
... [Marco] Rubio, among the youngest potential candidates in the Republican field, takes a generational swipe, arguing that Mrs. Clinton is a relic from a different era. In a meeting with donors recently, he wryly observed that when the Clintons arrived in Washington two decades ago, "cellphones were the size of bricks," said a person told of the conversation. In his forthcoming book, to be published in January, Mr. Rubio refers to Mrs. Clinton as a "20th century politician."
In dissecting Mrs. Clinton's personal appeal, or lack thereof, Mr. Christie has posited that the more likable candidate almost always prevails in a general election. The implication: his swaggering New Jersey personality would outshine hers.Yes, you read that right: Chris Christie regards himself as very likable.
Only one person interviewed for this story expressed any skepticism about this Hillary-bashing approach -- a guy with a checkered past but decades of campaign experience:
Two years before the election, some Republicans have already tired of the topic. Fred V. Malek, a major Republican donor and fund-raiser, said that after eight years of Democratic reign at the White House, his party should be drawing up elaborate plans for taking the country in a new direction.But what are they going to do? Thee Republicans have elaborate plans -- but they're plans they can't describe to the voters and expect to win. Their plans involve rejiggering the tax code to make the rich even richer, drastically reducing the regulation of industry, repealing Obamacare without replacing it, ripping other huge holes in the social safety net, curbing the ability of the federal government to stimulate the economy in recessionary periods by putting limits on deficit spending, attacking unions, taking voter ID national, and, as a sop to their base, passing red-state gun and abortion laws at the national level. Basically, their agenda is to do to America what Republicans have done to Kansas, North Carolina, and Wisconsin.
"They shouldn't," he said, "be thinking about running against Hillary."
But you can't say that and expect to win. So their announced agenda is going to be: "Hillary sucks." And the worst thing is, it may work for them.