11/18/2013 06:04 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Nightmare on Clinton Street? Elizabeth Warren Makes Her Play for 2016

Who or what is behind The New Republic's piece, "Hillary's Nightmare? A Democratic Party That Realizes Its Soul Lies With Elizabeth Warren," is political calculus of a high order. Either way, Noam Scheiber's article came low and fast into the dozing D.C. chattering class and Hillaryland.

Whether Scheiber acted alone or as somebody's surrogate, the plays the writer ran were largely of the testing type. Here's a sampling as judged through the lens of The Standard Table of Influence:

Trial Balloon: Warren's not a hostage to Wall Street. Ping: Hillary is.
Trial Balloon: Warren isn't motivated by the office she's holding. Ping: Hillary is.
Trial Balloon: Warren's cause is the middle class. Ping: Hillary's cause is Hillary.

Of course Scheiber isn't just testing the waters. By way of the Trump, the play that preempts, he draws his own conclusion: that Warren can steal Hillary's presumed 2016 nomination. Never mind that this is not journalism of the reporting sort; it's a self-congratulating opinion piece, written to foment intrigue, the perfectly baited hook for media and 2016 speculators.

As in physics, for every play there is an equal and opposite reaction. So the question that lingers is, How will Hillaryland counter The New Republic's well-aimed media missile? Scheiber gave us hints -- knowing quotes from unnamed sources to suggest that Clinton Inc. would attack Warren's woeful lack of experience, a Ping of another sort. And like any good PR pro, he sought to inoculate his certain client by proactively describing her achilles heels, (1) Warren's hasty claims of a Native American heritage and (2) her reputation as a publicity monger. These were Lantern plays, similar to Trumps in that they nip negatives in the bud by volunteering a player's shortcomings.

If a Warren candidacy is cause for panic, there was no sign of it from Camp Clinton. Hillary and her own surrogates were running a disciplined Pause. Scheiber, they know, has tossed a grenade, but time is on Clinton's side and while The New Republic laid out the path for a Warren presidency it also published the plan, a blueprint of sorts that is surely now hanging on the war room wall at Hillary's beach house.