Are the legions of Republican candidates spending too much time beating up on Hillary Clinton?
In my view, she might as well get used to it.
Sure, the GOP contingent is taking plenty of whacks at Hillary, and why not? She is the Democratic nominee-in-waiting, the woman they all want to cut down to size.
HRC and company are trying to turn this into a badge of honor. “Republicans seem to be talking only about me,” Hillary told reporters—yes, she actually spoke briefly to the press—in New Hampshire. “I don’t know what they’d talk about if I weren’t in the race.”
First of all, the Republican contenders talk about lots of other things, but the conflict-driven media invariably amplify what they say about the former first lady. So it seems like they’re all-Hillary-all-the-time.
What’s more, their comments are often jokes and jibes, which is natural at this stage of the presidential campaign. The heavy carpet-bombing will come later.
Still, Chris Matthews is downright upset at what he calls “the anti-Hillary overkill.”
Really? Overkill? Here’s what Matthews played on “Hardball”:
Rand Paul saying Hillary needs two planes, one for her entourage and one for her baggage. Marco Rubio saying Hillary’s going to raise $2.5 billion: “That’s a lot of Chipotle.” Ted Cruz saying he thought he spotted the Scooby Doo van but that couldn’t be because no foreign governments were paying speakers for the event. Chris Christie telling a reporter that he and Hillary are of different generations.
That’s pattycake, folks. The only tough comment in the MSNBC sequence was that of Mike Huckabee saying the Clintons will “do anything necessary” to win.
I mean, this is spring training stuff. What is Matthews going to say when we’re deep into the regular season and rivals really are throwing beanballs at Hillary?
Now it’s true that Cruz, Paul, Rubio and friends need to be seen as pushing a positive agenda and not just trashing the leading Democrat. But the media coverage doesn’t always reflect the substance of the trail.
Rubio, for instance, has unveiled a tax plan. How much have you read or heard about that?
The same is true when Republicans take swipes at each other—for instance, Lindsey Graham saying even Barack Obama is stronger on overseas threats than Rand Paul, and the Kentucky senator telling Fox that Graham and John McCain are “lapdogs for President Obama.” That gets more press coverage than what they detail for their foreign and domestic proposals.
Hillary’s problem is that she will bear the accumulated scars of Republican attacks over the next year, while for now she is running against token opposition. And if Clinton swings back against each slam by 15 or 20 candidates, she will appear constantly on the defensive.
It’s like the way the Republicans all ran against Obama in 2012, or the Democrats all ran against George W. Bush in 2004—with the obvious exception that Hillary doesn’t yet occupy the Oval Office. The larger problem for Hillary is that by the fall of 2016 she may seem like the incumbent, which could fuel a sense of Clinton fatigue. Unless her opponent has the offsetting dilemma of generating Bush fatigue.
Howard Kurtz is a Fox News analyst and the host of "MediaBuzz" (Sundays 11 a.m.). He is the author of five books and is based in Washington. Follow him at @HowardKurtz. Click here for more information on Howard Kurtz.