Texas Democrats are hoping to recruit a strong candidate to pit against Perry in next year’s gubernatorial race — perhaps San Antonio Mayor (and 2012 DNC keynote speaker) Julian Castro or Wendy Davis, who is seen as a rising star in the state Senate.

But they also already have their eyes set on a more improbable target: the 2016 presidential race. And they are strangely sanguine about their chances of at least making it interesting.

“I think that in 2016 it will absolutely be considered a swing state in the sense that presidential candidates will have to campaign here, which they haven’t been doing for a long time,” Allison said. “If Hillary Clinton does run, she does really well in Texas.”

Such an optimistic vision of the former secretary of state’s chances was fueled in part by a survey conducted last month by the Democratic-affiliated Public Policy Polling, which showed Clinton besting three hypothetical Republican opponents in Texas — including Perry (by a margin of eight points).

While the knee-jerk reaction among many Republicans would be to dismiss the idea that the state could be competitive in 2016 — just four years after Mitt Romney carried it by 16 points over President Obama — Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri is in no mood to sneer.