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GOP invokes Benghazi, Obama in ripping Clinton

| Saturday, April 18, 2015, 10:00 p.m.

NASHUA, N.H. — As Hillary Rodham Clinton prepared to bring her week-old presidential campaign to this state Monday, an array of Republicans vying to be their party's pick spent the weekend offering a preview of how they would take her on.

Democrats are rallying around Clinton's candidacy as an opportunity to make history by putting a woman in the White House. Republicans will be doing their best to convince Americans that her presidency would be more of the same — that is, an extension of the policies of President Obama.

“She is the third term of Barack Obama,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., one of those considering a 2016 bid.

“If you're looking for something new, don't look to her,” he quipped. “Look to the 35 people running for president on the Republican side.”

That was an exaggeration, but not much of one. Over the two days of the state GOP's Republican Leadership Summit, no fewer than 17 potential or declared candidates introduced themselves, made their cases and took questions from more than 600 party leaders and activists.

They mocked Clinton — who appears to have only token opposition in her bid for her party's nomination — as entitled and presumptuous, and they made jokes about the rough spots she hit as she rolled out her campaign with a swing through Iowa. There were, for instance, many references to Chipotle, where Clinton stopped for lunch in Ohio and failed to leave a tip (though that's not unusual in a fast-food chain).

“I could have sworn I saw Hillary's Scooby-Doo van outside,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said, referring to the nickname for the black vehicle Clinton traveled in. He quickly added that it couldn't have been, because foreign leaders were not paying for the gathering — a jab at the controversies that have surrounded the financing of the Clinton family's foundation.

And they blasted Clinton's biggest accomplishment — her tenure as Obama's secretary of State.

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., said Clinton's handling of the 2012 attacks on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, were a “dereliction” of her duty that should “preclude her” from serving as president. He said Clinton and Obama overstepped with airstrikes in that country in 2011: “Why the hell did we ever go into Libya in the first place?”

Paul ribbed that she will need two campaign planes — “one for her and her entourage and one for her baggage.”

Behind the bravado, however, there was unease and concern. Republicans know they must strike a careful balance: being tough enough against Clinton to rile up their base without piling on in a manner that would offend swing voters and those who would see sexism at work in their attacks.

Then there is the reality they see in the early polling, which shows that Clinton easily leads every potential candidate in the Republican field.

In a news conference, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has moved closer to a 2016 run, said “Republicans need to get their act together” and reach “people who live in the shadows” after being asked about his approach to taking on Clinton.

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