Perhaps more important even than the Republican candidates acquiring the sort of experience on the campaign trail — and with the national media — they’ll need to battle Clinton, there’s also the fact that the upcoming 2016 primary is widely viewed within the party as the best chance to decide ongoing internal debate over what the party will be in the future. “I think the GOP challenge is much less about who the Democrats nominate and much more about whether or not our party will have the courage to do the things it has to do on policy to make our brand less hopelessly toxic among presidential year swing voters,” said Mike Murphy, a Republican consultant who has framed the choice facing the party as between mathematicians and priests. “That is the hugely important win-or-lose-in-2016 driver we can determine; what the Democrats do or don’t do is not something we can control.”
The assumption among Republicans is that while Clinton poses a major set of challenges to their eventual nominee, she also affords the GOP an opportunity that no other potential candidates does. Clinton — and her husband — have long been fundraising gold for Republicans. Another Clinton running for president allows Republicans to cast the race as the past versus the future. (Assuming they nominate one of the greener candidates mentioned above or the likes of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio or Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.)
What’s more, the divisions within Clintonworld — even in this pre-candidacy stage — have long dogged Clinton and may not be solved if/when she runs again.