"Undermining my electoral viability since 2001."

Hillary is In

The doubting is over, Hillary Clinton is almost certainly going to run for president:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) is to step down soon from her position in the Democratic leadership, a move that clears the deck for her ambitions outside the Senate.

Clinton is also keeping her campaign offices in New York and Washington operational despite the fact that she does not face reelection for six years, and had scant opposition last Tuesday.

Many in the progressive online community will wince at this. She's not very well liked, and a lot of people have The Fear about her. They both doubt her worth as a leader -- too corporate, lacking in principles, too related to a recent President with an iffy policy legacy -- and fear her power as a totem to rally the orcs at the GOP base. The dittohead horde has been fed for a generation on tales of "the Hildebeast." She would stoke their passion like almost no other.

To me, Hillary has been a rather unexciting politician since getting kicked around on that Health Care thing back in 1993-94. I find her public persona to be almost unbearable -- a transparent exercise in very bad acting -- although I've been assured by more than one person who's worked with her closely that in-person she's great. If that's so, she'd better start showing some greatness in public, because really if you try and watch her do her thing at a podium it's pretty piss poor.

Perhaps this is because on the inside she longs to be a revolutionary firebrand, and because (like a certain former Veep who worked with her Husband) she doubts this inner flame and calculates her positions to retain her position, rendering her hopelessly without courage or any semblance of conviction. I dunno. I really have no idea who these people are or what drives them. I just know she's a C+ performer at best on the stump.

Start practicing, Hill. Dig deep.

In any case, even though she probably won't get my support, I wish her well. She's the best chance yet for a female president, and pushing that ball forward -- credible leadership from Women -- is a very big deal in the long run. Let the women run the world. Seriously.

I also think she'll bring a lot of attention and excitement to the primary process. She's a media sensation, and it'll help draw people in. It will also be nice that all the speculation is over.

My prediction is that she'll either turn some corner and take her game to the next level -- busting out with a big speech before Labor Day '07 -- or else get beat on the ground when Democratic primary voters get to see her existing candidate schtick up close. Call me an idiot, but I think competition works. Bring it on.

So yes... the 2008 storm system is forming. Hillary in; Feingold, out. Too bad about that, Russ. I think America is more ready for a twice-divorced Jew than a chick, to be honest. The people who vote against Jews and divorcés aren't really going to go dem anyway, and there are more than enough people in our bloc suspicious of powerful women (including a lot of women, natch) to make it an uphill battle, but I digress.

On the broader political playing field there's still a short window to make some adjustments overall. The opening salvo from Nancy and Harry's congress will be fun; my man Howard floated Health Care for everyone under 25 on the Daily Show the other night, nicely done. However, anyone who's got Really Big Ideas needs to think about how to attach them to a presidential campaign starting next spring, because that's where the action is heading without a doubt.