GOP 2016 hopefuls take aim at Hillary, each other at New Hampshire summit

Updated 11:54 AM EDT, Sun April 19, 2015
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They mocked her black “Scooby Van” and chided her tipless trip to Chipotle. They ripped her use of a personal email server, her family foundation’s acceptance of foreign gifts and her tenure as secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton won’t be in New Hampshire for two more days, but she was the star of the show on Saturday as Republican presidential aspirants capped the state GOP’s two-day summit that attracted nearly the entire field to Nashua.

“When Hillary Clinton travels, there’s going to need to be two planes: One for her and her entourage, and one for her baggage,” Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul said.

He delivered the strongest assault on Clinton, hitting her over her handling of the deteriorating situation in Libya—and particularly the 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi.

“I think her dereliction of duty, her not doing her job, should forever preclude her from holding high office,” Paul said.

But others got in on the action as well.

RELATED: GOP presidential hopefuls woo party faithful in New Hampshire

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker said he suspects Clinton’s shopping habits have left her out of touch. “I doubt the presumptive nominee for the other party has ever been to Kohl’s before,” he said.

Clinton arrives in New Hampshire on Monday for a stop at a business in Keene. She’ll then visit a community college in Concord on Tuesday. But for the weekend, the political world’s eyes were on the Republicans in Nashua.

Here are eight of the two-day summit’s highlights:

The Clinton designated hitter: Former Hewlett-Packard executive Carly Fiorina’s speech was entirely devoid of substance, but she managed to catch attention with her allusion to former President Bill Clinton and the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Rebuking a Dallas businesswoman’s Facebook comment that women’s hormones mean only men should be elected President, Fiorina sarcastically quipped: “Not that we have seen a man’s judgment clouded by hormones, including in the Oval Office.”

Biggest policy difference: Paul took on his own party, too, over Libya. He said the United States should never have waded into the conflict there in the first place and that his rival Republican White House hopefuls “would have done the same thing, just 10 times over.”

Others largely backed up Paul’s claim—with South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, in particular, advocating a more muscular role in the Middle East.

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Strongest tug at the heartstrings: Most candidates stuck with a tried-and-true mix of attacks on Obama and Clinton, and calls for a freer economy and stronger foreign policy. But Florida Sen. Marco Rubio managed to weave it all into a compelling narrative: His Cuban immigrant parents pursued the American dream, and he’s trying to save it for his daughters.

Rubio, playing the role of change agent, posited 2016 as a “referendum on our national identity,” saying that his children and their generation would be “the first to inherit a diminished country from their parents.”

A moment of self-awareness: Trying to assuage primary voters who worry about a dynastic Clinton vs. Bush general election, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush noted the massive field of primary contenders and said, “I don’t see any coronation coming my way, trust me.”

“I mean, come on,” he told the crowd. “What are you seeing that I’m not seeing?”

The field’s egghead: Bush was the most comfortable riffing on policy issues—even those where he’s at cross currents with conservative primary voters. On education, he distanced himself from Common Core standards by saying what students learn should be left to the states, and same-sex marriage, where he underscored his support for “traditional marriage” but said he holds no animosity for those who disagree.

He also managed to turn his eight years as a conservative Florida governor into an advantage over Cruz, Paul and Rubio, three first-term senators.

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“Accomplishment matters. Leadership matters,” Bush said. “Who sits behind the big desk as it relates to the presidency is different than perhaps United States senator or another job.”

Best stage presence: It was a charm offensive from Graham, whose South Carolina drawl and quick wit—which don’t quite match his intense focus on more forcefully tackling threats in the Middle East—were on full display when an audience member asked him a question about why the sorts of bargains that Republican President Ronald Reagan and Democratic House Speaker Tip O’Neill struck are no longer possible.

“You know what’s missing in Washington? Drinking,” Graham answered. “They had a drink. All we do is throw things at each other.”

If you prefer fire and brimstone, though, there’s no competing with Cruz, who unleashed an assault on Obama over immigration, national security and his attorney general nominee, Loretta Lynch.

“If only the terrorists attacked a golf course,” Cruz said, taking a long pause, “that might actually get the White House’s attention.”

Most forgettable speaker: It’s not that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal was bad. His personal story of lessons from his working-class father is compelling. He brought red meat and he showed some policy chops, especially on education. But nothing about Jindal stood out—he wasn’t the best at anything in particular, and fit into a sleepy portion of a Saturday afternoon schedule.

Antagonizing the audience: Real estate mogul Donald Trump managed to both insult the audience and win their applause when he said he’s considering running for president because, basically, politicians are dumb and businessmen are not, so he feels like he needs to do it—even though he’s not particularly interested.

“I’m not having a great time,” he said. “I can think of other things, many other things, where I can have a good time.”