The Brief: Top Texas News for Jan. 20, 2012

The Big Conversation:

Gov. Rick Perry's departure from the presidential race on Thursday touched off the most tumultuous day yet of the 2012 election cycle.

In an abruptly announced morning news conference, Perry said he had decided that there was "no viable path forward" for him as a presidential candidate. "The journey leads me back to Texas, neither discouraged nor disenchanted," he said, "but instead rewarded highly by the experience, and resolute to remain in the arena and in the service of my country."

Perry, flanked by his wife and son, said he had decided to endorse Newt Gingrich, whom he called a "conservative visionary who can transform our country."

The governor's endorsement came as several new South Carolina polls showed Gingrich moving ahead of Mitt Romney, who earlier on Thursday received the news that, according to newly certified results, he had placed second, not first, in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses. Romney just days ago appeared headed toward a likely victory in the South Carolina primary on Saturday, but new polling projections from The New York Times put his odds of winning at 38 percent, behind Gingrich at 62 percent.

 

But the good news for Gingrich collided with potentially damaging new allegations from his second wife, who said in an interview with ABC News that he had proposed an "open marriage" while they were together.

The allegations followed Gingrich to Thursday night's debate in North Charleston, where moderator John King of CNN began by asking the former House speaker to address his marital history. “I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that," Gingrich shot back, eliciting booming applause from the raucous audience.

The other Texan in the race, Ron Paul, fought for attention as Gingrich traded barbs with Romney and Rick Santorum. But on the topic of the Gingrich controversy, the Texas congressman barely held back.

“Setting standards is important, and I’m glad my wife of 54 years is with me tonight,” Paul said.

Culled:

  • So what's next for the Rick Perry? As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes, the governor — potential TV opportunities and cabinet positions aside — still has three years left in his term. But his federalism message still resonates — and could prove useful to the Republican Party past the 2012 elections.
  • The Texas Democratic Party has quietly settled a lawsuit over a Republican consultant’s effort in 2010 to get the Green Party on the state ballot, the Tribune's Emily Ramshaw reports. The Democratic Party, fearing that the effort would drain votes from its candidates, filed suit against a Republican consultant and a Republican-backed organization, among others, that led the effort. Democratic party officials said they couldn't discuss the litigation, but sources close to the party confirmed the settlement, which was buried in a campaign filing this week with the headline "confidential litigation settlement."
  • A federal judge on Thursday dismissed the National Rifle Association's effort to overturn a law barring 18- to 20-year-olds from carrying concealed handguns, the Austin American-Statesman reports. In his ruling, Judge Sam Cummings said "Texas has identified a legitimate state interest — public safety — and passed legislation that is rationally related to addressing that issue."
  • Johnson & Johnson agreed Thursday to pay Texas $158 million to settle a lawsuit alleging that the health care giant used faulty research and perks for health officials to get the schizophrenia drug Risperdal on an approved list of medications for the state's poorest patients. “Today’s agreement sends a strong message that the state will pursue those who defraud Texas taxpayers,” Attorney General Greg Abbott said. “Johnson & Johnson’s scheme to profit from the Medicaid program by overstating the safety and effectiveness of an expensive drug and improperly influencing officials ended up costing taxpayers millions of dollars.” The settlement amount makes the case the state's largest-ever Medicaid-fraud suit.

"This I know: I am not done fighting for the cause of conservatism. In fact I have only begun to fight."Rick Perry in his withdrawal speech on Thursday

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