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That has made Clinton a target of Republican arrows in Congress and online, attacks that have been fueled by their questions over how she handled the deadly attack on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September.
Republicans could be setting a new ideological course after years in which the party has gotten more conservative, even as the nation’s voters have become more diverse and likelier to support moderate and liberal Democrats.
Paul’s focus on civil liberties, Cruz’s brash, no-apologies conservatism and Christie’s moderation-with-an-edge approach could be among the key forces competing for attention in the Republican race, analysts say.
And then there is former Pennsylvania congressman Rick Santorum, who had some bright moments in the 2012 campaign as a conservative alternative to Romney.
The wide open field appears to have given new hope to Santorum, who frustrated Romney and some Republican leaders with his staunchly conservative statements on abortion and women.
Starting early this summer, Santorum, 55, will release a series of documentary-style videos online. Adviser John Brabender says the idea is to create original programming for people to share about Santorum, who won 11 states in the Republican primary season last year.
“We are putting together a narrative of the Rick Santorum story,” Brabender said. “It’s pretty interesting to see how close he came to the (2012) nomination. If he would have won Michigan, he would have been the nominee. One of our jobs is to sort of remind people of that.”
Santorum has also formed Patriot Voices, a political action committee that claims 400 local chapters. His advisers see these as Santorum “sleeper cells,” ready to act if he decides to run.
‘HE IS GOING TO DO WELL’
One potential stumbling block for Santorum: He would need to do well again in Iowa, where he won in 2012.
But Paul is increasingly popular in Iowa, the traditional starting gate for the presidential race. In Iowa and New Hampshire, Paul seems to be building on his father’s small but loyal campaign apparatus.
“He is going to do well here,” said Kevin Moore, 36, of Manchester, New Hampshire.
At Paul’s appearance in Concord, Moore sold T-shirts with Paul’s face and the slogan “Stand with Rand.” The slogan rocketed around the Internet after Paul’s 13-hour Senate speech in March to protest the administration’s use of military drones.
Paul’s speech in Concord made clear that he is seeking to prove that he can be more than a mascot for the Tea Party movement. It also showed that he might have some work to do.
He began with a defense of civil liberties, the type of speech that has made him popular across the political spectrum.
But the crowd wasn’t completely taken with Paul’s lessons on the U.S. Constitution. He stopped mid-speech and turned to a topic that unites Republicans: their dislike of Obama’s healthcare overhaul.
“With regard to…let’s see…,” Paul said. “Anybody in here a big fan of Obamacare?”
The audience laughed, and Paul was back on course.