WASHINGTON -- GOP presidential hopefuls can hardly find time to beat up Barack Obama, they're so busy focusing on Hillary Clinton. With no other Democrats in the race, Republicans can concentrate on Clinton's secret emails or her foreign donations or her lunch at Chipotle.
“Republicans seem to only be talking about me,” Clinton told reporters earlier this week. “I don't know what they would be talking about if I wasn't in the race.”
Clinton will have to handle being under constant attack -- at least until the primaries begin and GOP candidates turn on each other. But the unbalanced party slates also give Clinton an advantage, allowing her to decide which of, say, 20 Republicans she wants to engage with at any given moment. She can home in on topics that fit her message and find the Republican who presents the fattest target.
Want to highlight social issues like same-sex marriage or abortion? Compare your views with those of Mike Huckabee , Rick Santorum or Ted Cruz. Asked for your thoughts on climate change -- or evolution? Remind voters about Ben Carson. Union workers and economic issues? Here's Scott Walker.
“It's a trade-off of sorts,” said University of Virginia political science professor Larry Sabato. “Hillary Clinton will be relentlessly targeted by every GOP candidate. She's going to take quite a verbal pounding, day after day.” But the "equalizer," Sabato said, "is that she gets to play games with the large Republican field. ... Their foibles and gaffes make for a rich menu of choices she can highlight as her needs dictate."
Just look at Clinton’s recent trip to New Hampshire. While speaking at a roundtable event at a children’s furniture manufacturing facility in Keene, she took a swipe at Republican proposals on Social Security. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a likely 2016 candidate, had been in the state for days before talking about his proposal to raise the retirement age and overhaul the government-run program.
"I don't know how people can make some of the arguments they make," Clinton said. "It's just wrong. Let's figure out what works and how we build on what works."
As Sabato pointed out, Clinton could even deliberately help elevate a weak GOP candidate -- someone she'd prefer to run against -- by spending time reacting to his comments and appearing to take him seriously.
The GOP pile-on might also bolster one of the Clinton camps' favorite responses to criticism: that it’s just a tired, worn-out effort to smear the Clintons, the same old thing that's been going on for years. Nothing new to see here!
In line with that argument, Democrats are dismissing the House Republicans' continuing investigation into Benghazi.
“I think the Benghazi investigation is so transparently a political effort to undermine Secretary Clinton, Senator Clinton, presidential candidate Clinton that the American people get that,” said Democratic House Minority Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, a Clinton supporter. “I frankly think they’ve crossed the line. … The line will be when the American people say this is just politics.”