For all their political skills, the Clintons court trouble when they put the wrong person in charge or if no one is in charge.

Today, Hillary Clinton is in trouble.

That's why some of the wiser Democratic hands, Hillary fans, think the spate of stories this weekend about the dominance of her political machine -- the New York Times magazine cover was "Planet Hillary," showing her in the center of a constellation of supporters or wannabes -- is a serious warning shot for her campaign. No one is in charge.

The picture painted by these stories is of a presumptuous would-be president waiting to be ushered into the Oval Office as she rests on her laurels of yesteryear. More than a few of the scores of players in Hillary's constellation are trading on their connection to her.

Although the first primary or caucus votes are almost two years away and the former secretary of state hasn't declared that she'll run, this presumption of inevitability is usually a political loser.

Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, a South Dakota Democrat, said this wasn't Clinton's fault, though he worries about "the perception that you're trying to lock out others who might otherwise participate." He still has no doubt, however, that she'll run and win the Democratic nomination.

But open presidential elections -- with no incumbent -- are invariably about change, and the perception of Hillary Clinton's coronation doesn't suggest a candidate of change. The first 2016 contest won't be Iowa or New Hampshire; it'll be the war over who's on top in Hillaryland; it may be the toughest of all contests.

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To contact the author on this story:
Albert R Hunt at

To contact the editor on this story:
Toby Harshaw at