The Brief: Top Texas News for March 29, 2012

Mitt Romney at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 2, 2012.
Mitt Romney at a rally in Des Moines, Iowa, on Jan. 2, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

Riding high nationally, Mitt Romney on Wednesday arrived in Texas, where he still faces some challenges with Republican voters.

The former Massachusetts governor began his visit to the state with a stop at a private fundraiser in Dallas. Today he travels to San Antonio and Houston, where he'll pick up the endorsement of George H.W. Bush.

Bush's endorsement — as well as that of Jeb Bush, the former Florida governor, who endorsed Romney last week — adds to the growing number of establishment Republicans uniting behind Romney as he amasses what many have deemed an insurmountable delegate lead among the GOP candidates.

The former president "believes it's time for this phase of the campaign to reach a conclusion and get on with regaining the White House,” Bush aide Jim McGrath told the San Antonio Express-News.

 

But Romney's Texas visit comes as polls show Rick Santorum, his closest competitor, still enjoying a lead among Republicans in the state, which votes May 29. The latest RealClearPolitics polling average for Texas shows Santorum leading Romney, 33 percent to 30 percent.

In San Antonio last week, Santorum vowed to mount a vigorous fight to win the Texas primary, where conservatives could propel him to victory, as they have in several Southern and Midwestern states. The demise of Newt Gingrich — he announced this week that he would cut back on staff and campaigning — could also push additional conservative voters Santorum's way.

A victory for Santorum in Texas in May wouldn't stop Romney, but as Jim Henson, who teaches government at the University of Texas at Austin and runs the Texas Politics Project, tells The Dallas Morning News, Romney must blunt some of Santorum's momentum — and Texas could figure prominently in that plan. “Romney has paid so little attention to Texas up to this point,” Henson said. “It makes sense for him to use Texas as a cash register, but also extend his lead in the delegate count.”

Culled:

  • Attorney General Greg Abbott, in Washington to attend the Supreme Court hearings on health care reform, said on his Facebook page Wednesday that he felt "even more confident that a majority of the justices agree that the key part of Obamacare — the individual mandate — will be ruled unconstitutional." Of Wednesday's proceedings, which centered on whether the individual mandate provision could be removed from the health care law, Gov. Rick Perry tweeted: "ObamaCare may limp out of the Supreme Court on life support. But the American people will vote it and Obama out of existence this fall." Find Thanh Tan's roundup of Texas leaders' reaction to the day's arguments here.
  • As the Houston Chronicle reports, a Travis County district court judge ruled this week that the King Street Patriots, a Houston-based Tea Party group, are an unregistered political action committee, not a nonprofit corporation, as they have claimed. The judge ruled that the Patriots, who had challenged several campaign finance laws, illegally helped the Republican Party by training supporters to watch polls during the 2010 elections.
  • A monument commemorating the history of Spanish and Mexican pioneers in Texas will be unveiled on the south lawn of the state Capitol this morning. As the Austin American-Statesman reports, this morning's dedication caps a 12-year grassroots campaign in which supporters of the monument faced tough questions about the meaning behind the tribute. The Monitor has a deeper look at the history of the monument, whose origins can be traced to South Texas.

"I intended to contribute thoughtful commentary on the media coverage of the incident, however this goal fell flat." — University of Texas student Stephanie Eisner in a statement on the controversial political cartoon she drew for The Daily Texan mocking the media's reaction to the Trayvon Martin case

Must-Read:

 

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