Column: Divided GOP could win White House ... for Hillary Clinton

Nate Beeler/The Columbus Dispatch

Nate Beeler/The Columbus Dispatch

Hillary Clinton surprised absolutely nobody on Sunday when she formally declared her intention to run for president.

The former secretary of state, U.S. senator and first lady is probably going to get the nod from Democrats if for no other reason than her name is so well known.

Name recognition is why Jeb Bush, Rand Paul or Ted Cruz has a decent chance of landing the Republican nomination.

Unfortunately for Republicans, the same argument could be made for Chris Christie, Lindsey Graham, George Pataki, Rick Perry, Marco Rubio, Rick Santorum, Donald Trump, Scott Walker, Mike Huckabee, Bobby Jindal and Peter King.

That's a lot of Republicans wanting to move into the White House in January of 2017.

Here's the challenge every one of them faces in today's GOP political climate. They must appeal to conservative Christians, the tea party, big and small businesses, budget cutters and foreign policy hawks.

They need to attract both moderate Republicans and hard right conservatives who consider moderate Republicans liberal scum.

Meanwhile, Clinton merely needs to appeal to any American who opposes any of the groups, causes or philosophies mentioned above.

And she gets to deliver her message without any of the noise every single Republican candidate will hear while on the campaign trail.

While a dozen or more GOP candidates will compete for billions of dollars in campaign contributions, Clinton will be one of the first and only Democrats with a hand out for left-leaning dollars.

And then there is the chasm within the GOP to worry about. Candidates will undoubtedly forget President Ronald Reagan's famous 11th commandment, "Thou shalt not speak ill of any fellow Republican."

We're talking Bloods versus Crips. Jets versus Sharks. "Star Trek" versus "Star Wars."

If the 2008 and 2012 campaigns are any indication, Republicans will beat the snot out of each other as the race heats up. Meanwhile, Clinton only has to worry about her penchant for verbal miscues and a frightening ability to sound wholly detached from the plight of everyday Americans.

So who else on the GOP side might throw his or her hat in the ring to make things even easier for Clinton?

Dr. Ben Carson has launched an exploratory committee to test the waters.

While Democrats dismiss Carson as the Republican's token African-American candidate, the physician's hardcore conservatism resonates with many on the right. He probably won't get the nomination, but he has enough staying power to knock out a few better-known hopefuls.

John Dummett Jr. is something called a constitutional Republican from California. He's declared his candidacy and he won't win, but he could take a lot of votes from others with a chance for the prize.

Mark Everson is a declared GOP candidate who hates banks. He also thinks both parties cater to big-money special interests and if elected, he will only serve a single term.

He won't get elected, but any man who hates banks is going to get support.

Chris Hill has declared for the GOP, but he really isn't a Republican as defined by today's reality.

He supports a living wage, labor unions and gay marriage.

Isn't that a Democrat?

What Hill does have is something that appeals to most Americans regardless of politics: Hill is a combat veteran.

Meanwhile, Clinton's most likely potential competitors are long shots Rahm Emanuel, the mayor of Chicago and once President Obama's closest advisor. Howard Dean, the famously hotheaded former governor of Vermont and one-time head of the Democratic National Committee, could make a return to presidential politics after a dozen years in exile, and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo might introduce his Al Pacino tough guy act to the game.

And then there's Al Franken, a comedian and senator from Minnesota who leans so far left his ear is hitting the pavement.

Finally, there is Arizona's own Janet Napolitano, who is, believe it or not, the one Democrat who could give Clinton headaches.

She is tough and widely respected and has something no other candidate on either side of the aisle can claim - the ability to foster real bipartisanship on important issues.

The only problem is, our national politicians no longer dwell on important issues. They just fight to get in office and, once elected, to stay there.