Howard Wolfson, the 2008 communications director for Hillary Rodham Clinton, has said he will not return for a 2016 presidential campaign. Neither, for that matter, will Neera Tanden, the campaign's policy director. Ditto for Mark Penn, the chief strategist, and Patti Solis Doyle, the embattled campaign manager.

As core members of a dysfunctional "Team of Rivals," these top advisers were seared, scattered and, to different degrees, forged by the 2008 experience. Haunted by the failures in management and messaging, they have worked hard to get over their shattered White House dreams and rejection by a Democratic base enamored with Barack Obama. They express their requisite hope that Clinton will run and win, but also their lack of interest in jumping back in.

Clinton, who declined to be interviewed, moved on more quickly than many of her senior staff by going to work for Obama as secretary of state. She refuses to acknowledge the 2016 speculation but has privately suggested that the obstacles to running aren't exactly insurmountable. "She did tell me once that she was really thinking about Chelsea and [son-in-law] Marc," said Susie Tompkins Buell, a Democratic donor and friend of Clinton, "and how she didn't want to disrupt their lives."