Clinton faces rumblings from her left ahead of 2016

Shown here are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, left; Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.

Shown here are Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, left; Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley; and former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean.  (AP/Reuters)

It's good to be Hillary Clinton. She and her husband Bill are spending a few days with family this week at a six-bedroom beach-house in the Hamptons. Though staying coy about the possibility of a 2016 presidential run, she's leading every poll of possible Democratic candidates. 

Meanwhile, since leaving the secretary of State post, Clinton has been making public appearances, and headlines, on a regular basis. 

But behind all the buzz, several liberal Democrats have begun dipping their toes in the 2016 Democratic primary pool -- likely positioning for the chance to take on the Democratic powerhouse and tease at any weaknesses team Clinton might have. 

The emergence of possible Clinton challengers began earlier this year when an investigation was revealed into whether government strings had been pulled inappropriately on behalf of a company owned by Clinton's brother Tony Rodham -- which was seeking visas for wealthy foreign investors. 

It wasn't long before Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley, a liberal Democrat who had been openly hinting about running, announced he would begin making speeches outlining his national vision and agenda. 

O'Malley is seriously positioning himself to run. As with others testing the 2016 waters, there are benefits for trying -- increased attention and name recognition help plus, even in defeat, a nomination race well run can earn a place on the winner's vice presidential shortlist. 

In the last couple months, Clinton was also dragged into the Anthony Weiner muck, too. When it was revealed that the disgraced former congressman and current New York City mayoral candidate had not kicked his sexting habit when he said he did, his wife Huma Abedin took a leave of absence from Clinton's side as her closest aide, to help her husband's collapsing candidacy. 

Other lesser-known Dems continued to flirt with 2016. Just two weeks ago, visiting the first caucus state of Iowa, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., spoke at a fundraiser and pointed out repeatedly that her home in Minnesota is just a couple hours away, and the two states are so similar they are like one big family. It sounded a lot like Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann's rhetoric in the run-up to her Ames Iowa straw poll victory in the last GOP nomination race. 

"You are the state that has gained notoriety for picking presidents. We are the state thanks to Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale that supplies the country with vice presidents," said Klobuchar, playing the vice presidential fallback card. 

The biggest irony is that the event Klobuchar was speaking to was an awards dinner for Clinton. Iowans expect Clinton to run and therefore are impatient for her to visit. Clinton, though, did not attend.    

Then came another blow for Clinton. Last week, Clinton's successor as secretary of State, John Kerry, reinstated the four midlevel State Department staffers whom Clinton had disciplined after the Benghazi attack, saying they did not deserve the punishment. Republicans voiced outrage, and the incident showed how instantly the Benghazi scandal can resurface for Clinton. 

And as all that was unfolding, down came word that former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean, who lost a bruising nomination fight to Kerry in 2004, is visiting Iowa twice and New Hampshire once in the next two months. Dean, who was the first Democrat to tap the Internet for major donations, has indicated there is plenty of room for a progressive to run for the 2016 Democratic nomination, and if people like what he's offering, he'll run. 

There is yet another name on the lips of liberal Democrats and progressive activists. Whether it's cocktail-party gossip in Washington or activists beating the summer political bushes out in the real world, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is getting serious buzz.  National polls have begun including her name among other potential candidates, liberal blogs are spotlighting her, and while she downplays the idea, she has not ruled it out.