The Democratic Leadership Council is putting a brave face on a big defeat. While the top 5 Democratic presidential contenders will all appear at next week’s Yearly Kos convention in Chicago, none of them are scheduled to appear in Nashville the week after that, at the DLC’s annual conference.

Al From, founder and head of the DLC, insists that the candidates’ travel plans do not mean his group has lost its influence. “I don’t think this tells you an awful lot,” he said, noting that it is more important that the eventual nominee attend next year’s meeting just as Democratic nominees did in each of the last four elections.

“Always the most uncomfortable year for us is the third year in the cycle when people are looking at the early primaries and caucuses,” he said. Candidates now “are focused on winning interest group votes… We were organized and always have been the force in the party that looks to the general election and tries to connect the Democratic Party to the mainstream values of the country.”

Now, Hillary Clinton is still listed as the chair of the DLC’s American Dream Initiative. She’s also listed as part of their leadership team. This is especially interesting when we consider some stuff that Chris Bowers dug up about tensions between Bill Clinton and the DLC.

According to Michael Steinhardt, chairman of PPI’s Board of Trustees until he resigned at the end of 1995, the Third Way Project was to be ‘a new approach to separate ourselves from the Democratic Party.’ He explained [to author Baer] that the DLC began to take on a more bipartisan focus, which appealed to a number of contributors, including Steinhardt himself, who advocated the formation of a third party and went so far as to meet with Bill Bradley to try to persuade him to run for President in 1996.”

And the DLC is still looking for alternatives to Hillary Clinton, despite her high position within the organization.

CBS 2 has learned the details of a private dinner for the mayor that was held at an apartment building on Manhattan’s Upper East Side last month. There, he spent the evening in serious discussions about the viability of a White House run.

Sources told CBS 2 Bloomberg brought three deputy mayors with him, and proceeded to talk through every angle of a presidential run. By the end, the group had zeroed in on his running as an independent in 2008. And, the sources said, he seemed intrigued.

The dinner was held at the home of Michael Steinhardt, a legendary Wall Street hedge fund manager and a Bloomberg friend. He brought along Al From, head of the Democratic Leadership Council, which played a part in Bill Clinton’s rise to power in 1992.

Perhaps this flirtation explains why Ms. Clinton will not be in Nashville in August. Yet, as far as I know, she has not dropped her association with the DLC. It seems almost incomprehensible that the DLC would turn their backs on the presidential candidacy of the only person on their leadership team that is running for office. Yet, that appears to the case.

This year’s Yearly Kos conference is going to be outstanding. Hundreds of local/state/national bloggers will be there. There will be serious policy panels. It has totally transcended anything Daily Kos-specific. This is a people-powered conference. I think Bill Press put it best.

“Today, the energy is coming from new voices, new media, new technology and is much more to the left of the DLC,” said former California Democratic Chairman and current radio talk show host Bill Press. “Look where the candidates are going. You don’t need any further proof than that.”

Press said many in the party are grateful to the DLC for “bringing the Democratic Party back from having tilted too far to the left to a position where it could win elections again.” But, he added, “I think it’s time has come and gone.”

I think Hillary may have made the same calculation. The DLC might be going the way of Joe Lieberman. But I won’t really believe it until Hillary makes the DLC change their website so that it doesn’t imply she is their most prominent member.