Hillary Rodham Clinton

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton listens to questions from members of the audience during a discussion on the empowerment of women and girls at the Ford Foundation, Friday in New York.

CEDAR RAPIDS | Republicans are rolling out the red carpet for Hillary Clinton — not because they are fans, but because if she runs for president in 2016 she will be the GOP’s best recruiting tool.

“We’re laser-focused on the 2014 midterm elections,” Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a conference call with reporters Friday afternoon.

However, he and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus made time to welcome former Secretary of State Clinton to Iowa for her first visit in more than six years since finishing third in the 2008 Iowa precinct caucuses.

Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, will be guest of Sen. Tom Harkin at his 37th and final annual steak fry in Indianola Sunday.

He doesn’t like her politics, but Priebus sees Clinton as an asset to the GOP’s plans to elect a Republican president in 2016.

“If it was your job as national party job chairman to recruit a whole slew of volunteers, to raise a whole bunch of money and unify your party, you’d want nothing more than for Hillary Clinton to be the Democratic nominee,” Priebus said.

Clinton suffered her “most stinging political defeat” in the 2008 precinct caucuses because she’s “one of most out-of-touch politicians in America, Priebus said.

He said it appears she is repeating her doomed 2008 strategy of trying to build an “air of inevitability."

Kaufmann agreed Clinton doesn’t appear to have learned any lessons from that 2008 defeat.

Iowans want presidential candidates who can sit down and talk about the issues with them face-to-face, he said.

“Quite frankly, I don’t think Mrs. Clinton fits that particular bill,” he said. “That’s probably the explanation why she finished third last time.”

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