Mark Davis

But what if she eventually wears the stain of Benghazi or some other scandal? What if it occurs to some that a term and a half as an average Senator and four years as Secretary of State under a weak President may not be the most stellar résumé?

I know I’m dreaming here. Even more than Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton is a candidate who arrives with a narrative package that outshines her employment history. Her historic near-nomination in 2008, her rock-star status among Democrats who still wish she had won, her singular if curious symbolism as the accomplished Democrat woman of our day-- all of these are formidable cards to play in a White House run.

This means Republicans have to play very nearly mistake-free ball, an almost impossible concept to imagine after the last two elections.

But maybe part of that needed wisdom involves getting serious three years out about what we do and how we do it.

The debates, as always, will be vital. And this week, RNC chairman Reince Priebus showed some admirable toughness, essentially telling NBC and CNN: you go ahead and make your adulatory Hillary shows. But stand warned that you may not be awarded a single Republican debate in 2016.

In this, he has arrived at a destination we should have reached long ago. By what twisted logic do we hand over the debate reins to networks who hate us?

In what peculiar universe do we task ourselves with finding the right kind of conservative by seating panels of diehard liberals to dog the candidates with inane accusatory questions?

How about this: No single moderators, so no sabotage by future Candy Crowleys. Panels of three work well, with two actual conservatives and one liberal-- I actually like the occasional challenging question to allow our hopefuls to develop parrying skills.

None of the panelists would be employed by the network airing the debate. The debate rights would be sold to the networks, who would enjoy the audience boost, but not the opportunity for their golden boys or girls to earn cheap points with adversarial showboating.

Imagine that. Candidates taking most of the debate questions from people who might actually vote for them. For anyone thinking this would be a softball tournament, please-- we’re Republicans. We love to nitpick each other to death. Make one panelist a national security hawk and another a Rand Paul privacy devotee, and the candidates may actually yearn for George Stephanopoulos to walk out and pepper them with contraceptive questions.

All of this is a long way off, but in November of 2008 and 2012, it felt as though Republican strategies had been cobbled together in the previous 90 days.

Whether we face Hillary or someone else, we had better have our act together, with an upbeat, unapologetic conservative with solid communications gifts to relate the advantages of a Republican rescue from a Democrat-dominated Washington.

CNN’s own Erin Burnett actually suggested this week to Priebus that her network’s Hillary hagiography might actually contain some unflattering elements. Maybe in a frame or two, on matters of no consequence.

But I have to hand it to CNN’s actual news coverage in recent days: they have become downright aggressive in identifying the administration’s post-Benghazi spin as “inconsistent,” “conflicting” and “inaccurate.”

Keep this up, and if CNN actually airs a 2016 GOP debate, we might even let them supply a questioner.