That was quick.

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Did Hillary Clinton Just Clinch the Nomination?

Jonathan Bernstein is a Bloomberg View columnist. He taught political science at the University of Texas at San Antonio and DePauw University and wrote A Plain Blog About Politics.
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Hillary Clinton hasn't even declared her candidacy for 2016, but can someone tell me why she didn't just lock up the Democratic presidential nomination?

There were two indicators this week. First, after months of playing around, Senator Elizabeth Warren finally declared herself out more definitively. It wasn't Shermanesque, and plenty of politicians  have entered or re-entered past presidential races after more solid exits, but it’s getting late for someone to rule out a run and still have time to mount a serious one.

Maybe Warren ended the semi-flirtation because she came to believe that support for her candidacy didn't extend far beyond a relatively small group of activists. Maybe she learned that Clinton’s support in the rest of the party was solid.

This won't end the Draft Warren quest, as Greg Sargent of the Washington Post explained. A competitive nomination fight is in the collective interest of liberals (and, I've argued, the Democratic Party). But for most individual politicians it doesn't make sense to fill that role, as Dan Larison of the American Conservative notes in arguing why Warren shouldn’t run.  

The other development this week  is that several big-name operatives have signed on to Clinton’s campaign, even though she hasn't even made an informal announcement yet that she is running.

John Podesta would not likely be leaving the White House if he thought her campaign might be short-circuited at any moment. And if Clinton wasn’t giving convincing assurances to party actors that her campaign is real, they would be publicly pressuring her to decide.

Her strategy of doing as little as possible, at least publicly, to maintain her position has to end sometime. Eventually, she’ll need to make some informal acknowledgment of her candidacy, with a formal announcement later in 2015.

Clinton has had perhaps the best second-year-of-the-cycle of any non-incumbent presidential candidate in the modern period. She's been running, and very effectively. Though some of her support could be less solid than it seems, don't forget: About half of recent nominations have likely been locked in before voters in Iowa caucused and voters in New Hampshire went to the polls.

It's a lot more unusual for the nomination to be wrapped up with a year of the "invisible primary" (the part of the campaign before voters get involved) remaining on the clock. But Clinton may have done it. 

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Jonathan Bernstein at jbernstein62@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor on this story:
Katy Roberts at kroberts29@bloomberg.net