The Republican candidates for president are throwing red meat to partisan audiences by denouncing Sen. Hillary Clinton at every opportunity. Of course, they are assuming she will be nominated and easy to defeat.
They may live to rue the day.
Clinton has high negatives, no doubt about it. She also must deal with the persistent questions of the role her husband would take in her presidency. And some Democrats are indeed fearful she can't win the general election.
Now for the flip side. The senator from New York is tough. She is well versed on the issues and has more than held her own in debates. And she will probably give as good as she gets when the Republican smear machine goes after her.
Sen. Barack Obama and former Sen. John Edwards are currently going more negative on Clinton in the Democratic chase. However, her poll numbers are standing firm.
The Republicans eager to demonize her have their own demons to exorcise.
Rudy Giuliani is a twice-divorced former public official who is on the wrong side of the social issues while still appealing to the evangelical right. Mitt Romney is flip-flopping almost every day and appears to have no principles at all. John McCain is making something of a comeback in the polls, but he has hung the unpopular war around his own neck. Fred Thompson has been almost a zero on the stump while proclaiming to be the image of GOP hero Ronald Reagan.
And the Republican hopefuls have another barrier to cross. All of them are reluctant to criticize President Bush, who has little standing with voters now. It could get worse in Bush's final months in office.
To beat Clinton, they will have to come up with a strategy that appears to be loyal while edging away from Bush. He's a lame duck with little clout, but they are stuck with him.
So the next time people question Clinton's credentials, tell them to check out the Republican alternatives. It is not a pretty picture.