Too Early to Tell How Benghazi Will Impact Hillary in 2016, Experts Say

High approval ratings and voter apathy may shield Clinton from GOP attacks

Former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.
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The focus of the Benghazi hearing this week on Capitol Hill was not only how the attacks unfolded, if talking points were edited or whether the administration could have to sent backup to assist the diplomatic teams in Libya on the evening of Sept. 11, 2012. The question on everyone's minds was whether the hearings and news following would impact the reputation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

[DEBATE CLUB: Is Benghazi a Real Scandal?]

Friday, ABC News obtained copies of the 12 revisions made to the talking points UN Ambassador Susan Rice delivered to news programs in the days following the attack. And despite previous administration claims that the talking points were authored by intelligence agencies, the emails show the Department of State was extensively involved in the revisions of those talking points.

Specifically, the ABC report illustrates the State Department's concern in saying terrorists were responsible for the attack in Libya, which killed four Americans, including Ambassador Christopher Stevens.

 

Additionally, State Department spokesman Victoria Nuland was concerned that including past attacks and warnings that had occurred in Libya in the talking points might give members of Congress a rallying cry to criticize the Department of State.

In the end, references to past attacks and mentions of terrorism were deleted from the talking points.

Now, while Clinton's 2016 intentions are still unknown, conservative groups are seizing on the opportunity to define the former first lady as weak on national security.

America Rising, a GOP PAC, has been sending emails and releasing videos calling into question Clinton's role in Benghazi.

And in a new ad released Friday, Karl Rove's American Crossroads seeks to blame Clinton for covering up that terrorists were responsible for the attacks citing testimony from whistler blower Greg Hicks, the deputy ambassador in Libya, who said during a Oversight Committee hearing Wednesday that he told Clinton immediately that "it was in fact terrorism."

[READ: Top Libya Diplomat Says Pentagon Told Special Forces to 'Stand Down']

"Was she part of a cover up?" the video asks. "Americans deserve the truth."

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who is fueling rumors that he is prepping for his own presidential run as he hits the road in Iowa, released an Op-Ed in the Washington Times Friday where he writes that "Clinton ignored repeated requests for more security in Benghazi. The new evidence we have today — and that continues to mount — suggests that at the very least, Mrs. Clinton should never hold high office again."

GOP lawmakers on the Hill are still calling for a select committee to investigate the attacks, although the chances of that are growing increasingly unlikely.

But pundits say that it is too soon to tell whether the events surrounding Benghazi will hurt Clinton's chances if she decides to run for the White House.

"It is too early to tell where the story is going," says GOP operative Ron Bonjean. "The Clintons have been through so much controversy over the years, it would have to take her direct negligence. They would have to trace the line back to her for it to have a serious impact on a potential presidential run."

[PHOTOS: U.S. Consulate in Benghazi Attacked]

Bonjean argues that the American public, which has an overwhelming approval of Clinton's job performance as Secretary of State, are desensitized to decades of Clinton family controversy and that Benghazi may not be enough to tip the scales against her.

Any evidence against Clinton, Bonjean says "has to have her making an active decision not to act or changing talking points."

Victoria Budson, the executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program at Harvard, say Clinton's approval ratings are so high that early conservative questioning isn't likely to affect her potential candidacy.

"I think Hillary Clinton has consistently show the American public that her judgement acumen, decision making and leadership are unparalleled," Budson says. "I think this is still all unfolding."