The Republican National Committee under Chairman Mike Duncan is quietly making plans to zero in on the Democratic presidential nominee as soon as possible next year.
GOP strategists have concluded that there's a good chance the Democrats will settle on their nominee in January. But the Republican situation is more muddied, and a nominee probably won't emerge until later, perhaps not until late February or even March, according to the assessment of GOP insiders. That means there might be a period when the Democrats are rallying around their new leader while the GOP remains fractured.
As a result, Duncan and his aides want to be ready to go on the offensive against the Democratic nominee presumptive in an effort to define the opposition candidate on GOP terms. Opposition research is already well along, and the plan is for surrogates to talk to the media around the country while a TV ad campaign is expected in key states and media markets as soon as the Democratic nominee is determined. Different approaches will be tailored to the eventual Democratic winner, but the party insiders expect that it will be Sen. Hillary Clinton.
One line of attack against her that's already in the GOP playbook: When Republican operatives add up all her proposals, they say she wants to increase spending by at least $778 billion, which the GOP says would require a big tax increase. Another anti-Clinton theme: Voters can't trust her because she frequently tilts with the political winds. One senior Republican says she practices "the politics of parsing."
—Kenneth T. Walsh