WASHINGTON — Get ready for a special guest star in the Republican campaign against Democrat Barack Obama: Hillary Clinton.
Months of bare-knuckled campaign fights, pitched rhetoric and debate jousting produced a treasure chest of sound bites and videos of Clinton ripping Obama as inexperienced, elitist or simply wrong on various issues.
Now that the Democratic primaries are over and Obama has clinched his party's nomination, the Republicans are ready to pounce.
The Republican National Committee on Wednesday rolled out new ads quoting Clinton criticizing Obama, the first of what likely will be many such ads.
In one, Clinton is heard in a Democratic debate ripping Obama's stance that he'd meet with foreign dictators without preconditions if elected.
"I disagree with his continuing to say that he would meet with some of the worst dictators in the world without preconditions and without the real, you know, understanding of what we would get from it," she says.
Another quotes several Democrats, including Hillary and Bill Clinton as well as former candidates Joseph Biden and John Edwards, pointing out that Obama has little experience in the Senate and suggesting that he has little more to offer than nice-sounding speeches.
"There is no time for speeches and on-the-job training," Hillary Clinton says in that one. "Senator McCain will bring a lifetime of experience to the campaign. I will bring a lifetime of experience. And Senator Obama will bring a speech that he gave in 2002."
"When's the last time we elected a president based on one year of service in the Senate before he started running?" Bill Clinton says in another bite. "He will have been a senator longer by the time he's inaugurated, but essentially once you start running for president full time, you don't have time to do much else."
The Republicans doubtless have more in the can.
For one, there's Hillary Clinton's response after Obama was quoted saying that small-town Pennsylvanians cling to God and guns out of bitterness over their economic anxiety.
"I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America," Clinton said in April. "Senator Obama's remarks are elitist and they are out of touch. They are not reflective of the values and beliefs of Americans."
For another, there are her comments in an April debate about Obama's relationship with Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical who's refused to apologize for his role in bombings. One defiant Ayers statement appeared in an article in New York the morning of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
"Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time," Clinton said in a Philadelphia debate.
"And, if I'm not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9-11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York and, I would hope, to every American, because they were published on 9-11, and he said that he was just sorry they hadn't done more. And what they did was set bombs. And in some instances, people died. . . . I think it is, again, an issue that people will be asking about."
Almost as if she envisioned what was to come, Clinton paused, then added, "this is an issue that certainly the Republicans will be raising."
The Obama campaign said it wasn't surprised to see Republicans use Clinton's words against it.
"They are going to do anything they can to distract from the fact that John McCain last year voted with George Bush 95 percent of the time," campaign spokesman Tommy Vietor said. "The McCain campaign already has embraced George Bush's policies. It's no surprise that he's now embracing his politics."
A Republican National Committee official said there would be plenty of similar ads to come.
"There is quite a bit of video," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss strategy candidly. "They're going to help us communicate to voters that there are concerns about Senator Obama's experience and judgment, and they're raised not just by Republicans but by his fellow Democrats."
The Democrats could, of course, counter with plenty of sound bites from Republican candidates such as Mitt Romney or Rudy Giuliani criticizing McCain during their campaigns.
The problem there is that most of the criticism was that McCain wasn't conservative enough or loyal enough. Highlighting that might make him more attractive, not less, to swing voters such as independents.