UPDATE: I typed the following up the night of the 14th to publish the morning of the 15th. The WSJ published a bit of a rip off, and not as long or well thought out, oped the morning of the 15th.
Don't underestimate the Clintons. Oh the Hil-dog is just sleeping on the elites and media that ruthlessly tossed her aside and were so sexist towards her just two years ago. She remembers. She has things working against and for her. She parlayed her husband's sex scandal into a Senate seat. She came so close* to being the first female POTUS.
There are things stacked against her. Let's review:
1. She lost her best chance (2008) and chickened out of another OK one (2004). 2008: Huge war chest, perfect Dem year, the moderate contenders all bowed out, and she had rookies and crazy libs left to swat away, yet she failed.
2. She is Sec of State right now with no real foreign policy trophies to show.
3. She will have to wait until 2016, if her party's POTUS does win re-election, at age 68. Age and political freshness will be a factor. 24 years on the DC circuit by that point. It's also tough to win after 8 years of a WH control when you are not a VP maintaining the stewardship of the previous POTUS. Ask McCain/Ford/Stevenson (even VPs have issues like Nixon/Gore).
4. She still has a lot of baggage. Plus, many of the big bank issues had a start in the Clinton years.
5. She could risk everything in a primary challenge in 2012. This one would be the riskiest path. She'd need everything to go bad for Obama, but not taint herself as Sec of State. She'd need to paint herself in the post-94 Bill Clinton mode (centrist/pro-growth). She'd need to keep the base despite the betrayal and appeal to enough independents. She'd need to keep black voters on her side or at least get them to show up in Nov after crushing the guy they approve of 90%... still. Everything would have to go right, plus a sitting POTUS would have to stay out of the race after being rejected by his own party. Reagan in '76 and Ted Kennedy in '80 both tried this, with Reagan the closest to unseating a sitting POTUS but still a loser. There is also a difference now compared to '76 + '80 as party leadership realizes the image problems that internal challengers pose, and would do their best to avoid them. It most likely would not happen.
But could it?
The set up would have to be an economy still in the dumps in 2011 (highly likely) and then a foreign policy flare up where Obama flinches, chickens out, makes a bad move, etc. that Hillary could openly disagree with him about that would have her on the side with the American people. Looking at health care reform, trials of Sept 11th terrorists, and now the Arizona immigration law, Obama will do things that a majority of Americans do not agree with. This could easily happen in foreign policy. Say he abandons an ally or doesn't react 'right', and Hillary makes the first move: she resigns and leaks to a willing media that it was because she disagrees with a weak POTUS (she called him weak in ads in Indy). There is a huge contingent of Clintonites on the outside looking in. They are still connected in DC but crowded out by the Obama-Chicago operatives. This leak would question his credibility, portray Hillary as a reasonable alternative in the admin that was 'in line' with America, and isolate his poor choice, removing herself from the foreign policy stink.
Hillary could spend the rest of 2011 conducting a 'listening tour' of America and getting the troops ready, watching MSNBC & a friendly media (all but Fox) flirt with her while FoxNews bashes the POTUS which helps her. Plus the memories of Clinton era balanced budgets will seem virtuous by 2011. There are plenty of moderate Dems & establishment politicians that supported her in 2008 who were frozen out of the Obama admin (Evan Bayh being one). While on tour, she gets the 'refreshed and revitalized' treatment from the press. The whole time she is out there, Obama has to be POTUS and can't campaign directly. He can't just run against W, and he can't respond to her every move like in '08. He can't buy her off with a VP spot since she won't want to potentially lose in the general as the VP or worse, be attached to his stink legacy if he did get re-elected but things were shaky in 2016. She'll be in a great position, and will need to run on the idea of "Leadership that listens to you" (feel your pain) and "Experience will clean up the rookie's mess" (3am ready for the call). If she makes it to a single primary, he is a goner. Look at what Ford and Carter did in the general after the challenges: they lost close general elections after their credibility was damaged by someone in their party. Either she can take him out or she will mortally wound him.
Obama's team and the DNC can't allow this to happen. If they do, the DNC must be the traitors and must have a plan in place to keep the winning team together just with a new quarterback. Tough job. If they let her run, they have to be ready for the switch, portray it as an executive swap to the general public and keep the base energized (1st female POTUS yah!). They'd have to get black voter turnout at normal (non-'08) levels, not lose too much of the ground Obama gained in '08 with Hispanics/Catholics/Men. This is as likely to succeed as it is for Hil-dog to run and win in the 1st place. Their better choice is to have Biden fall on a sword for something Obama goofs on (the media would help spin that), move Hillary to VP and placate her with the idea of 2016. Axelrod and Co. would be better served by that move... but they would be better served, right now, by firing Geithner/Summers/Bernanke, but they do not. Hillary prob realizes her chances as a primary challenger are slim, but in this wild time, one cannot rule anything out. You also cannot underestimate the selfishness and drive of people who respond to the humiliation of their family on the world stage by running for an open US Senate seat. Stay tuned.
*Note that Hillary won the 'popular' vote like Mr. Gore but this time that didn't matter in the minds of Dems since their 08 Chosen One won with dirty caucus tactics, ballot box stuffing in Illinois, and the media's help.