While Republicans bask in the glory of their victories in 2014 and continue their hyperpartisan onslaught in the new Congress, some early numbers should keep GOP strategists awake at night.
According to a recent ABC/Washington Post poll, Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonOMB director: Government shutdown not a 'desired end' Poll: Almost half say Trump off to poor start Chelsea Clinton: Someday, someone's mom will be president MORE would defeat Jeb Bush in 2016 by 13 percentage points. She would defeat Chris Christie by 13 points, Rand PaulRand PaulWe can put America first by preventing public health disasters Conservative activists want action from Trump McConnell: 'Big challenge' to pass ObamaCare repeal in Senate MORE by 13 and Mitt Romney by 15.
Meanwhile, President Obama’s popularity has risen significantly since November. The stage is set for Clinton to begin a 2016 campaign with a significant lead over GOP opponents and run against a highly unpopular Republican Congress.
Voters see Republicans overreaching and underachieving. They see the GOP repeating ritual attacks against Obama and Clinton as though the 2014 campaign never ended. They see Republicans moving to pass political bills they know will never be enacted, such as old attacks against ObamaCare, and opposing important bills voters do want enacted, such as immigration reform. They see the GOP stage phony hearings on Benghazi that are nothing more than taxpayer-financed attacks against Hillary Clinton.
There is a GOP distemper in Washington, an overreaching of aggressive tactics against Democrats and an underachievement of success in governing. The result? Obama rises in favorability, Clinton rises against Republicans.
The most egregious GOP overreach was the decision by Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE (R-Ohio) to invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a bitterly divisive figure in Israel and the U.S., to address a joint session of Congress, in the midst of his campaign in the Israeli election, to attack the policies of President Obama and Obama’s internationally respected secretary of State, John KerryJohn KerryEllison comments on Obama criticized as 'a stupid thing to say' 'Can you hear me now?' Trump team voices credible threat of force Obama to attend Pittsburgh Steelers owner's funeral MORE.
Breaking with precedent, tradition and protocol, BoehnerJohn BoehnerLobbyists bounce back under Trump Business groups silent on Trump's Ex-Im nominee Chaffetz won't run for reelection MORE did not consult with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), with Democratic or Republican leaders in the Senate or with the White House before inviting a foreign leader to use the platform of Congress itself to campaign for his reelection and condemn American policy on vital matters of security.
I have always had great respect for Speaker Boehner as a statesman on foreign policy, but I have worked for House Democratic leaders, and no Speaker I worked for would ever have attempted such a grotesque overreach of his role on national security. Nor has any Republican speaker in my lifetime. Nor has any Speaker of any party in American history. Nor, to my knowledge, has any allied foreign leader sought to use a joint session to campaign for reelection and criticize the policies of his host.
American-Israeli relations should be bipartisan, based on trust, grounded in mutual respect and above politics. The Netanyahu speech should be canceled. Whoever wins the Israeli election should receive a bipartisan invitation to address a future joint session.
These repeated GOP overreaches — the Netanyahu invitation, partisan Benghazi hearings, phony votes on ObamaCare, obstructing immigration reform and more — are damaging GOP prospects in 2016.
The GOP establishment overreach extends to obvious attempts to fix the 2016 nomination in favor of an establishment candidate by gaming nominating rules and rigging nominating procedures to freeze out, put down and lock out conservatives. The fix may fail. As conservatives figure out the establishment game, they become ever more furious about it. They should be.
These GOP overreaches create a golden opportunity for Clinton to be elected president and for Democrats to regain control of Congress.
The smart move for Clinton might be to wait until June to formally launch her candidacy. She could spend spring quietly building her campaign structure and creating a legal entity to begin major fundraising, giving thoughtful and uplifting speeches in dignified settings offering her vision for the future, while the crowd of candidates in an overreaching and underachieving GOP begin clawing at one another’s eyeballs.
Budowsky was an aide to former Sen. Lloyd Bentsen and Bill Alexander, then chief deputy majority whip of the House. He holds an LL.M. degree in international financial law from the London School of Economics. He can be read on The Hill’s Contributors Blog and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.