NO MATTER WHAT THE CALENDAR SAYS, it’s 2008 in Texas. Yes, the next presidential election is two and a half years away, but the quickened pace of fund-raising and friend-raising by White House wannabes from both parties leaves no doubt that the race is on. On the Republican side, former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Senator John McCain, of Arizona, came through last fall (the latter is landing big-time local Bush backers, like former U.S. congressmen Tom Loeffler and Kent Hance, seemingly every day). Among the D’s, New York senator Hillary Clinton collected coin for her “reelection campaign” at a swanky Austin lunch in March seven weeks after former Virginia governor Mark Warner and Senator Joe Biden, of Delaware, were in town on the same day. Retired general Wesley Clark, Iowa governor Tom Vilsack, Indiana senator Evan Bayh, and 2004 veep candidate John Edwards have also campaigned in our backyard the past few months. The reason for this flurry of activity is simple: Texas is finally in play after six of seven presidential elections in which a Bush has been in one of the two slots on the ticket ( H.W. in 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992; W. in 2000 and 2004). Even if a W. stand-in, like brother Jeb, Condi Rice, or, least plausibly, Dick Cheney, were to launch a bid, none is a Texan, so there’ll be no favorite son. “It’s a new game for us,” Hance says. Up for grabs are 34 electoral votes—nearly 13 percent of the total needed to get elected. Jump ball. Right now.