Can Anyone Stop Hillary?

Why Clinton's 2016 candidacy-without-a-campaign dominates the political galaxy

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Photo-illustration by Justin Metz for TIME. Pants: Don Farrall–Getty Images, Man: BLOOM image–Getty Images, Shoe: yasinguneysu–Getty Images

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In other words, the Stop Hillary movement among Democrats may never get started. As a co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, Adam Green might be expected to lead the effort, but Warren's decision to remain on the sidelines has left him resigned to seek concessions from the overwhelming front runner. Clinton "determines her own fate," Green tells TIME. "If she embraces things like more Wall Street reform and expanding Social Security benefits instead of cutting them, there will be very little space for a primary challenge of the left."

Toby Chaudhuri, a veteran adviser to progressive Democratic groups, concurs. "There isn't a huge space for a challenger, so the left is really focusing on making sure Clinton is where she needs to be. We'll be paying a lot of attention to where she comes down on issues like privacy, Guantánamo, ending the war in Afghanistan, Syria and others."

She's already making some of the necessary gestures. No longtime Clinton watcher is surprised to find that the noncandidate's noncampaign has been keeping a nonschedule immaculately tuned to the heartstrings of various Democratic constituencies. One day she's delivering a paid speech to clients of the Wall Street bankers at Goldman Sachs; another day finds her at Yale decrying income inequality. When Bill de Blasio was sworn in as New York City's most progressive mayor in decades, Hillary and Bill were conspicuous in the front row--just as they were on hand to celebrate super-moneyman Terry McAuliffe when he took the oath as governor of Virginia. Does she contradict herself? Like Walt Whitman, she contains multitudes.

Of course, she won't be nominated without at least a token challenge. Someone will take the bait, professional Democrats predict, if only to establish credibility as a Clinton running mate or to catch the eyes of publishers, speakers' bureaus and cable networks. "There will be a race because there has to be a race and it's only good for the party and the candidate to have a race," says Erik Smith, head of Blue Engine Message and Media, a Democratic consulting group. That said, he notes, "The challengers who would worry the Clinton campaign most are all supporting her and have done so early."

Meanwhile, anticipation of a Clinton candidacy is already red hot inside the Beltway, as both parties avert their eyes from a midterm election pitting the dueling faces of an unpopular Congress--the ballot-box version of shingles vs. flu. Hundreds of operatives from past Clinton campaigns are vying with Obama veterans for positions on what they hope will be the ground floor of something very big. Republicans are launching efforts with names like Stop Hillary 2016 and the Hillary Project, which mix online attacks with spirited fundraising and merchandising appeals in hopes of thwarting Clinton while also cashing in on her galvanizing name. In both parties, Hillary has always been good for business.

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