The Brief: Cruz Receives Sharp Elbows, Throws Some, Too

During a stop at the Spindletop Museum in Beaumont, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz pitched his energy policy bill, which he calls the American Energy Renaissance Act.
During a stop at the Spindletop Museum in Beaumont, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz pitched his energy policy bill, which he calls the American Energy Renaissance Act.

The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz's positioning for the next stage of his political career was the common thread in Monday's news coverage of Texas' junior senator.

Cruz, who is in the mix for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, was the apparent target of an op-ed by another 2016 contender, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. "I don’t claim to be the next Ronald Reagan nor do I attempt to disparage fellow Republicans as not being sufficiently Reaganesque," Paul wrote in an op-ed published by Breitbart News that never mentioned Cruz by name but seemed clear in whom it targeted. "But I will remind anyone who thinks we will win elections by trashing previous Republican nominees or holding oneself out as some paragon in the mold of Reagan, that splintering the party is not the route to victory."

If Cruz took umbrage at the shot from Paul, he didn't show it in a statement released later on Monday. "We do not agree on everything, especially regarding foreign policy, but we have agreed on the vast majority of issues, and I am sure we will continue to do so," Cruz said. "Substantive policy disagreements are a positive aspect of the political discourse, but in the fight for liberty, I am proud to stand with Rand."

And in another gesture showing his independence from the Republican leadership, Cruz is taking a step back from his duties as vice chairman for grassroots outreach at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. According to Michael Catalini of National Journal, Cruz said his decision was spurred by the NRSC's decision to play a more active role in party primary contests.

"To get involved is to side with incumbents, and to side with incumbents is to back Washington’s elite. It could anoint electable candidates, but not always the most conservative ones," Catalini wrote while describing Cruz's rationale. “'If it were up to Washington insiders, Charlie Crist would be in the U.S. Senate instead of Marco Rubio,' Cruz said."

The Day Ahead

•    Candidates wishing to withdraw from a runoff election have until 5 p.m. tomorrow to do so.

Today in the Trib

Hugh Daigle: The TT Interview: "The University of Texas at Austin professor of petroleum and geosystems on the idea of tapping methane hydrates — an abundant source of natural gas found in rocks buried beneath the ocean's surface."

Early College High Schools Proliferate: "The number of early college high schools, which allow students to get a head start on college credits without paying tuition, has surged in Texas."

AG's Office Poised to Weigh In on Plastic Bag Bans: "A letter from a state lawmaker asks the attorney general's office to give an opinion on whether Texas cities' bans on plastic bags are in compliance with the state’s health and safety laws."

Must-Read

Wendy Davis accuses Greg Abbott of 'dodging' on equal pay, San Antonio Express-News

Jeb Hensarling doesn’t know from compromise, Politico

Ratcliffe challenges Hall to debates, The Dallas Morning News

Houston lawyer spends big money in El Paso races, El Paso Times

Snowden: NSA data-collection 'setting fire' to Internet future, Houston Chronicle

Snowden Inc., Politico

Health care law survey: Uninsured rate continues to drop, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

"I'm pro-life and work for pro-life candidates, but I don't necessarily think it's a winning strategy for the party for that to be the core message we're campaigning on day in, day out. We need a broader message to win elections."

— Romney 2012 strategist Katie Packer Gage on the priority given social issues in the GOP because of the Iowa straw poll and caucuses

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation With Sen. Charles Schwertner and Reps. John Raney and Kyle Kacal at Texas A&M University in College Station, 3/27

•    A Conversation with U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway at Midland College in Midland, 5/13

•    Save the date for the 2014 Texas Tribune Festival: 9/19-9/21