Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton speaks after being inducted into the Irish American Hall of Fame in New York, on March 16, 2015. (Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters)

By Anne Gearan and Robert Costa
March 18, 2015 at 5:15 PM

Hillary Rodham Clinton is already running her presidential campaign — against the Republican Congress. And the GOP is only happy to oblige.

The prospective 2016 Democratic candidate is seeking to use the priorities and record of congressional Republicans as a foil, highlighting early GOP stumbles and attempting to change the subject after weeks of rough media coverage of her private e-mail system and of foreign donations to her family’s foundation.

In blasts of rapid-fire Twitter messages just this week, Clinton accused Republicans of waging a war on women, playing politics with a black nominee, shortchanging students, endangering the economic recovery and trying to yank health-care coverage for 16 million Americans.

The invocation of divisive issues such as abortion, race and health care was less than subtle. She also weighed in last week on a controversial open letter to Iranian leaders from 47 Senate Republicans — including several presidential hopefuls — in opposition to the Obama administration’s negotiations over that country’s nuclear program.

“No one considering running for commander-in-chief should be signing on,” she wrote on Twitter.
Boehner: Clinton must turn over server(0:41)

Never mind that Clinton is not yet an announced candidate and currently holds no public office. With a huge lead over potential Democratic challengers, Clinton is attacking Republicans as though she were already her party’s nominee.

Congressional Republicans, playing to their right flank, have forged ahead with inquiries into Clinton’s e-mail scandal while reviving investigations into the deaths of four Americans in 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, when she was secretary of state. The House GOP also announced a budget outline this week that would repeal the Affordable Care Act and make large cuts in domestic programs — giving Clinton a chance to begin testing Democratic themes for a presidential run.

“They can’t help themselves,” said Rep. James E. Clyburn (D-S.C.). “They’re forever doing this kind of stuff: Benghazi, the letter to the Iranians, no matter what it is, they seem hellbent on overkill. It’s helping her so far.”

Many Republicans disagree, arguing that they are obligated to seek answers to lingering questions over Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state. Rep. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) said that many voters are troubled by Clinton’s use of a private e-mail server while in office.

“When I talk to people, they are offended with the conduct and it feels like it’s another ‘there they go again’ moment with the Clintons,” Blackburn said. “They know the rules, but they have chosen to not play by the rules.”

And Rory Cooper, a GOP consultant and former top adviser to former House majority leader Eric Cantor (Va.), said the attacks won’t work for Clinton once Republicans have a candidate.

“She may want to run against Congress, but the party’s nominee ends up taking the main role in setting the conservative agenda and the tone of the debate,” Cooper said. “Congress will have a role to play in 2016, but it’s the nominee who leads.”

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