Hillary Clinton left the State Department nearly two months ago, but she still needs a staff to keep up with the considerable business of being Hillary Clinton. A half-dozen people now work for the former secretary of state and Democratic presidential candidate in a tiny corporate space on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, in what is called her “transition office.”

Transition to what, Mrs. Clinton and her aides have not yet said. But the question hovers over her every move and has frozen in place the very early — but for some potential candidates, very important — presidential maneuvering on the Democratic side…

Adding to her rivals’ anxiety, a new report emerges almost weekly from a Democratic dinner party in New York or Washington that Important So-and-So heard from Still-More-Important So-and-So that she is absolutely, positively running — only to draw swift rebuttals from her representatives that she has decided nothing of the sort.

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Democratic strategist James Carville asked supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton on Thursday to pony up some cash if they want to convince her to run for president in 2016.

“It isn’t worth squat to have the fastest car at the racetrack if there ain’t any gas in the tank,” writes Carville in an e-mail sent by Ready for Hillary, the super PAC that was formed to encourage the former secretary of State to make another White House bid…

“We owe it to Hillary to start putting the building blocks of her campaign together now,” Carville said.

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“I’ve always looked at Hillary as a brand,” says Parkhomenko, who at age 27 will be the executive director of Ready for Hillary PAC. “That’s been especially true in the last couple of years. It’s a brand I believe in. It’s a brand I want to protect. It’s a brand I want to build.”

There have been presidential draft campaigns long before they were caucuses or primaries or, obviously, PACs. But Clinton’s advantage is so deep and broad that the super PAC looks downright gaudy. By miles, she’s the most popular Democrat in America. In Iowa, whose anti–Iraq War caucus-goers hobbled her 2008 campaign, Clinton leads the field by at least 39 points. In New Hampshire she’s up by 50. In trial heats, in their own home states, she slaughters the strongest Republican candidates.

So Democratic donors are holding out for Hillary.

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[T]he surge of cash from Clinton backers for McAuliffe should be considered a signal that donors are ready and eager to dig deep for Clinton, asserted John Morgan, a Florida lawyer who hosted Bill Clinton at his Orlando mansion for a fundraiser that he said pulled in $400,000.

“No question about it. It is Hillary’s if she wants it,” said Morgan, who met McAuliffe in the mid-1990s when both raised money for Bill Clinton’s reelection. “I did tell President Clinton that if she ever decided to run, I would like to help. I think most people at my event would enthusiastically support her. Me, especially.”

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Why is the media covering this as if it were a question? It’s never too early to run for president. And Hillary Clinton has been running for president since 1993. So unless health or age issues get in her way, you and I both know there’s no way she’s sitting out 2016…

There’s no one in the Democratic Party who possesses her abilities or her name recognition; certainly, no one who can marshal the kind of heavy hitters and money needed to pull it off. There’s no charismatic upstart to trip her up. Andrew Cuomo? Martin O’Malley? Elizabeth Warren? John Hickenlooper? Joe Biden?…

She has to run. This is the woman who believed herself qualified to lead an effort to craft and then implement a massive overhaul of the entire health-care system, despite her complete lack of expertise or experience on such matters. This is the same women who decided to run for the Senate lacking any of the experience most people might associated with the position– most notably living in the state she allegedly represented.

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Hillary Clinton is 14 years older than Barack Obama. A party has never nominated a leader that much older than his immediate predecessor. (The previous record-holder was James Buchanan, 13 years older than Franklin Pierce when the Democrats chose him in 1856. Runner-up: Dwight Eisenhower, 12 years older than his predecessor, Thomas Dewey.)…

[T]he biggest risk to Democrats from a Hillary Clinton nomination is not that it would be generationally backward-looking — or that it would reopen embarrassing ethical disputes — but that it would short-circuit the necessary work of party renewal.

After eight years in the White House, a party requires a self-appraisal and a debate over its way forward. Bill Clinton offered Democrats just such a debate in 1992 with his “New Democrat” ideas. Barack Obama offered another in 2008 with his careful but unmistakable criticism of Clinton-era domestic policies and Hillary Clinton’s Iraq war vote. But if Hillary Clinton glides into the nomination in 2016 on the strength of money, name recognition, and a generalized feeling of “It’s her turn,” then Democrats will forgo this necessary renewal.

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Having passed the torch to a new generation of leaders, will the American public really be willing to go backwards — back to a politician formed during the bitter political divides of the 1960s?…

(This isn’t just about age, though that’s a factor. Hillary Clinton would be essentially the same age Reagan was when he became president. Of course, he was the oldest president, and age was an issue. But the bigger problem isn’t her age, it’s that she’s old news. Hillary has been in the public eye for more than two decades now.)

One could imagine a scenario where a young leader like Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, or Paul Ryan would provide a stark contrast to the Baby Boomer Clinton. If one of them wins the nomination, the question will be whether we want to build “a bridge to the future or a bridge to the past?”

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Here are some important pieces of unfinished business from the Obama years that a re-elected in 2016 Democratic party must resolve:

* Were President Obama’s counter-terrorism policies effective and necessary? Or did they over-reach and violate important liberties?

* Is Obamacare a charter for regulated competition among private health insurers? Or is it a deeply flawed half-way step on the way to Medicare for all?…

* How much should the interests of the native-born working class matter on issues like energy and immigration, vs how much for the party’s new constituencies among upper-income professionals and recent migrants?

If these issues don’t get discussed in the course of a presidential primary, when do they get discussed? And if Hillary Clinton glides to an easy victory on the strength of name ID, big money, and “it’s her turn” sentiment, they won’t be discussed at all.

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The pro-Clinton media … assumes that she will somehow remain aloof from real-life, every day, divisive politics. The key to her high favorable numbers, Nate Silver points out, is precisely that “she has remained largely above the partisan fray that characterizes elections and fights over public policy.” But that will end if she runs for president. Candidate Clinton will have to state positions that will not satisfy everyone, not even every Democrat.

In 2008, Clinton assumed her eminence would insulate her from criticism of her position on Iraq. That did not happen. Already in this cycle she has had to play catch-up on same-sex marriage, announcing her support almost a year after Joe Biden announced his. One of these days something will come up that will separate Clinton from the rich men who finance her party. Out of elective office since 2009, she may have more trouble finessing issues than the governors and senators who have to make controversial decisions regularly. Her numbers will fall…

Her finances and business relationships will be scrutinized. Her husband’s foundation and world traveling will be a treasure trove for opposition researchers. God only knows what else he’s been up to. Or what he might say on the campaign trail…

Now, I could be wrong. Maybe Hillary Clinton is on a glide path to the 2016 Democratic nomination and then the presidency. But aren’t we obligated, in this supposedly data-driven, scientific, all-too-cynical age, to look skeptically on the messages emanating from the political and cultural establishment? Especially when a media that hilariously believes it speaks truth to power is parroting those messages? And when what they are saying, in exactly the same terms, was falsified spectacularly only five years ago?

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Enormous efforts are being made to sweeten an already delicious pie. But if there’s one thing Clinton knows all too well, and which her most dedicated supporters might be blind to in their ardor, is that even as Clinton espies that pie, she’s probably pondering the portion of poison on the menu as well

[L]est you think that memories of what it was like to be the target of such attacks are far in the misty distance for Hillary Clinton, let’s recall that one thing Clinton was dealing with in the waning days of her Foggy Bottom tenure was the unrestrained insistence that she was faking the concussion that was keeping her from testifying about the attacks on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi. I wouldn’t worry overmuch about the possibility that Clinton’s dog-tired and done in from the past four years of peripatetic global travel, but I have to imagine that having to endure a round of “Concussionghazi” was unimaginably exhausting…

The question is, can Clinton’s supporters and donors get this groundswell to the point where it becomes the proverbial offer she can’t possibly refuse? Because those are pretty great conditions to make an exit from life in public service, too.

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Matthews continued to press Gibbs, who continued to parry, offering to bet even money Clinton wouldn’t run, and even pointing out that, in 2016, Clinton “will be 69 years old. She may decide she doesn’t want to do it.”

Gibbs did point out that Hillary “could wait until ten minutes before the New Hampshire primary filing closes to decide to run for president and still be the nominee.”

Matthews signed off the segment with a parting “Fifty-fifty. Give me a break!