If you ask anyone around Hillary Clinton the question that everyone is asking, the answer comes back in a shot: The freshman Senator from New York is far too busy concentrating on her re-election in November to be giving even a passing thought to 2008. Thank you very much. But politics is ultimately a game of logistics, and the junior Senator is putting the machinery in place for a campaign that looks far grander than a re-election cakewalk in New York. All it will need is for someone to throw the switch. Against virtually nonexistent opposition for her Senate seat, she is raising money as though she were in the fight of her life, bringing in more than $33 million. What's left over--which might easily be $10 million or more--could be the seed money for a presidential campaign. And as her husband did the year before launching his 1992 bid for the presidency, she has been putting together the intellectual pieces of a campaign agenda in a series of centrist, high-fiber speeches around energy policy, the economy, privacy and even rural issues. Her political operation has grown to an army of 32 full-time employees, plus 10 from her Senate office who draw part of their salary there and 13 consultants who are building, among other things, a national direct-mail operation. She recently added an Internet guru to their ranks. And offering his services for free is the best Democratic political strategist on the planet: Bill Clinton is "thinking about [her presidential prospects] all the time," says one of Hillary's advisers. "He's thinking about it and talking to a lot of people, promoting Hillary. This is something he is very focused on."
Should Hillary run? Could Hillary win? Is this a dynasty in the making? Is a Clinton candidacy good for the republic? Normally, those would be questions that only political consultants would be asking at this stage, but given the outsize status of both Clintons, ordinary voters are already wondering the same thing. Hillary would step into the race as the instant front runner, but the risks would be enormous. It is hard to imagine a greater vindication than seeing the second President ever impeached hold the Bible as his wife takes the oath of office. But if Hillary ran and lost, both Clintons would come out tarnished--no small consideration when a promising Senate career and a presidential legacy are in the balance. So sensitive is the question of Hillary's future that both Clintons refused to let TIME interview them about it, and they discouraged those around them from talking, which explains why nearly all the people who did talk did so on the condition that their name not be used.