Democrats are three years away from picking their 2016 presidential nominee, but Republicans already are launching a salvo of pre-emptive strikes on the potential candidate seen as their biggest threat -- Hillary Clinton.
The most recent effort came Monday when the Republican National Committee threatened to boycott any presidential primary debates with CNN and NBC unless the networks pull their upcoming TV specials on Clinton's life.
Committee Chairman Reince Priebus argues that the same TV networks airing shows with the potential to make a Democratic candidate “larger than life” would also be “slicing and dicing our candidates” in the debates.
“I’m not going to sit around and let this happen,” he told Fox News.
Priebus’ attempt to stop the shows follows Republicans trying last week to drag Clinton into the scandals created by fellow Democratic politicians -- former New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and San Diego Mayor Bob Filner -- questioning why she didn’t condemn their inappropriate, sexual behavior.
It also follows the recent formation of political groups that are fundraising against Clinton and trying to influence potential voters with Internet videos, emails and even online video games.
Among the first this year was Stop Hillary 2016 by America Rising PAC, which is led by Matt Rhodes, the 2012 Mitt Romney campaign manager. Another, the Stop Hillary PAC, was formed in May, calling her “the liberal standard bearer.” Its stated mission is to “ensure Hillary Clinton never becomes President of the United States.”
The most aggressive among them appears to be the super PAC known as the Hillary Project, which released a video game page Monday on which visitors can play games allowing them to choreograph Clinton's dance moves and have her street fight with President Obama. One of the more crude -- and potentially offensive -- games allows users to "slap" a digital likeness of Clinton.
Few would argue Republicans have a misguided focus on Clinton -- a former first lady, U.S. senator, 2008 presidential candidate and secretary of state.
She and husband Bill are considered the Democratic Party’s most popular figures, which also gives her enormous fundraising ability.
“If Republicans are not concerned about Hillary Clinton, they ought to be,” said David Heller, a Democratic campaign strategist and president of Main Street Communications, a media consulting firm.
“She’s not just the prohibitive favorite, she’s the overwhelming favorite” Heller said. “Her support is broad and deep.”
To be sure, Clinton leads essentially every hypothetical primary poll, despite repeated protests that she’s done with the “high wire” of American politics.
She leads all other potential Democratic candidates by 44 percentage points, according to an averaging of polls by RealClearPolitics.com. However, she holds just a single-digit lead over the Republicans’ leading potential candidate, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the website shows.
Tyler Harber, a Republican strategist hired to promote the Hillary Project, said the games are pure political satire, amid some controversy online regarding the games.
“There are a slew of similarly ridiculous, satirical games posted against Republican candidates and officeholders," said Harber, a partner in Harcom Strategies International, who points to games like “Dancing Palin” and “Throw Shoe at Bush.”
As for the Clinton specials -- in the form of a planned mini-series starring Diane Lane and a documentary -- CNN on Monday urged the RNC to reserve judgment.
Priebus responded Tuesday to CNN asking that he first watch its show by saying: “It doesn’t matter. Good, bad, in between, it creates a cult of personality.”