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Hillary stumbling at the gate

Hillary Rodham Clinton waves after speaking about her

Hillary Rodham Clinton waves after speaking about her new memoir "Hard Choices" at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., on Friday, June 13, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Nicholas Kamm

Ron Fournier is a serious guy. He's the senior political columnist and editorial director of National Journal. He's thrice won the White House Correspondents Association's Merriman Smith Award, and he's been covering Bill and Hillary Clinton as a journalist since their early days in Arkansas politics.

So when Fournier published a National Journal piece this week titled, "Maybe Hillary Clinton Should Retire Her White House Dreams," it packed weight.

Here's Fournier, who's no conservative incidentally:

"Perhaps Hillary Rodham Clinton shouldn't run for president.

"Maybe she should stay at the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, where the former secretary of State could continue her life's work of building stronger economies, health care systems, and families. Give paid speeches. Write best-selling books. Spend time with Charlotte, her beloved granddaughter.

Because she doesn't seem ready for 2016."

Fournier, I suspect, will be the first of many columnists wading into these politically uncomfortable waters. Because Hillary Clinton's readiness does, indeed, appear to be in doubt -- at least at the moment. Unlike the determined way in which she launched her 2008 campaign for president, the former secretary of state and her team seem dazed this time around. While they huddle behind closed doors, negative stories appear on an almost daily basis about disharmony within the campaign or about substantive questions like the Clinton Foundation accepting donations from foreign entities while she led the State Department or her decision to use private email as secretary of state rather than her encrypted official government email.

The most damaging narrative out there is that Clinton and her team are behind closed doors developing "Hillary Clinton 5.0" -- that is, they are deciding who she is going to be this time around. That's not a winning story line.

This is extremely unusual of the Clintons who have had some of the most buttoned-up political operations in modern American history. They are typically clear, decisive, and ruthless in their tactics. I faced Clinton's political team for a short time during her 2006 U.S. Senate re-election race in New York and it wasn't fun.

Fournier's column may prompt Team Hillary to get its act together. Or maybe it has its act together already, just behind shuttered doors. Maybe they're just that good and they don't want Hillary to get too stale too early. But it might behoove Clinton to begin showing glimpses of that organization to the outside world before the Fournier narrative grows and she picks up a serious primary on the left. No one should be more aware of that possibility than she.

There's a great Southern expression often used in politics. It's used to describe a campaign that can't get out of the blocks. "That dog won't hunt," is the term, and it's best employed with a bit of a drawl -- "That dagwown hun."

That's exactly what one might say about the 2016 Clinton campaign right now.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant.