NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The specter of Hillary Rodham Clinton's imminent presidential campaign dropped like a gift from the heavens at the National Rifle Association's annual convention Friday.
A succession of potential Republican presidential rivals slung criticism and cracked jokes about the Democratic candidate-to-be, and NRA leader Wayne LaPierre, never given to understatement, predicted doom for the nation if she should win.
"Hillary Rodham Clinton will bring a permanent darkness of deceit and despair forced upon the American people to endure," LaPierre said. The NRA executive vice president and CEO vowed that the powerful gun lobby would "stand shoulder to shoulder" to prevent her from becoming the next president.
Clinton plans to announce her candidacy for the Democratic nomination on Sunday. Many speakers at the NRA convention took the opportunity to say something about it.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush decried the "liberal, progressive worldview of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, and all of the other people who want to take the guns out of the hands of the good guys."
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker added Clinton's name to his criticism of the president.
"People like Hillary Clinton seem to think you measure success in government by how many people are dependent on the government," he said. "I think we measure success by just the opposite: by how many people are no longer dependent on the government."
And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal drew laughter when he said he expects Clinton's campaign slogan won't be "four more years."
"The reality is the 2016 campaign is going to be between elitism and populism," Jindal said. "Hillary Clinton has already made it clear she'll be on the side of elitism."
Needling her comment years ago that a "vast right-wing conspiracy" was making trouble for her husband, President Bill Clinton, Jindal called her "leader of the vast left-wing conspiracy."
Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn't name the former secretary of state but criticized "our failed foreign policy."
Among 2016 GOP prospects addressing the convention: Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.