The Brief: Texas Political News for Aug. 12, 2013

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on March 16, 2013.
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference in National Harbor, Md., on March 16, 2013.

The Big Conversation:

If Gov. Rick Perry makes a second bid for the White House in 2016, there is mounting speculation that he may have some home-state competition for the Republican nomination from a certain junior senator.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz spoke to a gathering of evangelical leaders in Iowa Saturday, where he rallied the crowd of more than 1000 against a "bipartisan mess up" that has allowed an "ever-growing leviathan of government."

“A lot of politicians in Washington in both parties are telling the American people it can’t be done," he told the crowd. "The only way we win this fight is if the American people rise up.”

Though PPP survey last month found Cruz in sixth place in the state, behind other Republican hopefuls Rand Paul, Chris Christie, Paul Ryan, Jeb Bush, and Marco Rubio, the Washington Examiner says that may be because the state just hasn't gotten to know him yet. The Examiner's Byron York describes a "wildly enthusiastic reception" for the Texas senator, who "wowed the crowd, and then wowed them again."

Cruz "dropped no direct hints about his future ambitions," but Todd Gilman of the Dallas Morning News points out that the "ovations he drew could only encourage him" toward 2016 presidential trail. And if they do, Gilman notes, he does not have much to lose. With an open Republican field, he has little risk in alienating voters or "falling so flat as to hobble his career." A possible defeat for the 42-year-old won't leave him without a future shot at the job, and has the additional advantage of positioning him as a powerful member of Congress or as a top vice-presidential pick.

The appearance is Cruz's second in the key presidential primary state, where he also recently spoke to a group of influential conservative pastors two weeks ago. Gilman reports Cruz will return there again in October to headline a state GOP dinner — and then he'll hit first-in-the-nation New Hampshire for a fundraiser in October.

Meanwhile, as Perry rounds out his last term in office, his national media appearances and speaking engagements are keeping speculation of a potential return to the presidential campaign trail alive. But if he intends for those public remarks to help people "put aside the stumbles of his first White House run," says Peggy Fikac at the San Antonio Express-News, so far, not so good.

She writes that a series of recent stumbles from the governor — like mixing Libya and Lebanon in a June speech to the Faith and Freedom coalition and  saying he was in Florida instead of Louisiana during an August RedState blogger conference — may not make voters feel comfortable giving him a second chance. But, for that to matter, says Southern Methodist University political scientist Cal Jillson, they have to be paying attention. 

Right now,  Jillson says, the general public isn't paying attention. But he said those who are — the media, donors, party insiders — are only  "confirmed in the impression that it's going to be very steep uphill for Perry” to make it to the oval office.

Culled:

Charter Schools Presence In Churches Draws Both Praise and Concern: "Since the charter school system was established in 1995, schools with ties to faith-based organizations have cropped up in cities across Texas. Critics have concerns about oversight and worry that faith-based instruction could enter some classrooms."

Blue Texas: Eight Charts Show Why It Won't Happen: "Democrats don’t have a chance of snagging Texas in a competitive presidential election any time soon. That’s because Latinos in Texas are disproportionately ineligible to vote."

White Male Democrats in Texas Are Nearly Extinct: "White male Democrats once dominated Texas politics. But next year’s elections could leave five or fewer of them in the House."

Texas Forensic Science Commission To Review Convictions Based On Hair Samples: "The commission wants to determine whether anyone has been wrongly imprisoned by identifying older criminal cases in which microscopic hair fibers were used to convict people of rape, murder, robbery and lesser crimes."

Quote to Note:  “They have too many white men, and we don’t have enough,” — State Rep. Mark Strama, D-Austin, on comparing his party with the GOP.

Must-Read

New Laws Clearly Aimed At Boosting TransparencyHouston Chronicle

Texas Democrats Now Looking For A Pied Piper, Texas Tribune

Pastor Hagee Now Backing Gay OrdinanceSan Antonio Express News 

Natural Gas Fuel Use Could Be Long Haul, Even For A PickupHouston Chronicle

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