The Brief: Top Texas News for Aug. 8, 2011

The Response prayer organizers gather on the stage at Reliant Stadium August 6th, 2011
The Response prayer organizers gather on the stage at Reliant Stadium August 6th, 2011

The Big Conversation:

For Rick Perry, the big day's over. But an even bigger day now awaits.

More than 30,000 attendees packed into Houston's Reliant Stadium on Saturday for The Response, the governor's all-day revival-like prayer event for the state of the nation. Bands, gospel singers and several speakers, including Perry, took to the stage in front of a loud, exuberant crowd.

"Our heart breaks for America," Perry said during one of his addresses, which all struck similar tones. "We see discord at home, we see fear in the marketplace, we see anger in the halls of governments, and as a nation we have forgotten who made us. We cry out for [God's] forgiveness."

The number of attendees more than tripled the 8,000 RSVPs that Response organizers said last week they had received, dispelling any notions that Perry might enter the presidential race weakened by a poor showing at the event, which had drawn criticism largely for its association with a controversial Christian group. Instead, the turnout likely gave Perry the most national media face time he has received in his political career.

“There were so many ways the event could have gone wrong," Republican consultant Mark McKinnon tells The Washington Post. "It came off pretty smoothly overall.”

Now, coming off a day "that people are going to discuss for years to come," as Perry put it during the event, the governor faces an even bigger spotlight as he nears an announcement that for the past month or so has appeared inevitable.

Though he may lie low this week, hosting a fundraiser in Austin on Tuesday, Perry could spring the news on the nation right after this weekend's Iowa Straw Poll, an early test of buzz and organizational support for candidates in the key early caucus state. Perry hadn't declared by the deadline to get his name on the straw poll ballot, and he won't appear at a Republican debate in Iowa on Thursday (the first to include former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman), but an announcement from Perry shortly after the straw poll could stall the victor's momentum.

That announcement could come sooner, before the poll, similarly stealing attention from the competing candidates. But reports last month — though disputed by Perry's team — have indicated we won't likely hear anything until next Monday at the earliest.

Culled:

  • Charles Wyly, the Dallas billionaire and major Republican donor who faced insider trading charges, died Sunday in a car accident near Aspen, Colo. Wyly, who was 77, and his brother, Sam, had also donated generously to the Dallas arts scene in recent years.
  • U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who would likely compete with Gov. Rick Perry for social conservative votes, appears to have responded to The Response by ramping up her outreach to evangelical Christians. On Friday, the day before Perry's event, her campaign released the endorsements of 100 Iowa religious leaders, and on Sunday, Bachmann added an extra campaign stop at an evangelical church, according to Business Insider. The rise of Perry hasn't overtaken the Bachmann fascination yet, though: She's on the cover of Newsweek this week, and The New Yorker's got a new 10-pager on her campaign.
  • The Daily Beast has a look at what an altered primary calendar means for the Republican presidential field — and why front-runner Mitt Romney should think again if he's expecting to knock Rick Perry out on Super Tuesday.
  • State Rep. Veronica Gonzales, who in July indicated that she might retire from the House after Republicans decimated her seat during the redistricting process this session, has announced that she'll run for re-election in the new, Republican-leaning district into which she was drawn. Gonzales, D-McAllen, told The Monitor that she made the decision after meeting with officials and residents from the district.
  • Thought Rick Perry and Ron Paul were the only Texans looking to challenge Barack Obama in 2012? Not one, not two, but 12 other candidates from the Lone Star State have also filed for a chance at the White House.

I do think he’s running. I think that’s very clear. He’s putting all of the building blocks in place. I don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m looking for the candidate who can win.” — U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, in an interview on MSNBC on Friday, on Rick Perry

Must-Read:

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