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The Brief: February 8, 2010

People who say the Super Bowl was the biggest night for television are clearly unaware of tonight's impending excitement: the Democratic gubernatorial debate.

Bill White and Farouk Shami at LULAC candidate forum

THE BIG CONVERSATION:

People who say the Super Bowl was the biggest night for television are clearly unaware of tonight's impending excitement: the Democratic gubernatorial debate.

Bill White and Farouk Shami will go head-to-head tonight in the only debate before the primaries. Since none of the Democratic candidates have run for statewide office before, it's unlikely the debate will generate the same levels of viewership as the Republican ones (The other five Democrats didn't meet the sponsors' criteria and won't be on the stage). The two campaigns have to hope their respective candidates will generate news, preferably positive, in order to get the most mileage from the event.

Shami hopes the debate will be his chance to reach voters directly and draw distinctions between himself and White. The hair magnate has been getting more attention lately but not quite the kind he wants. Tensions between Shami and the Democratic establishment came to a head this weekend after the candidate accused White of playing on racial prejudice by emphasizing his own San Antonio roots (and, by inference, Shami's birthplace in Palestine, Shami thought). But Shami's complaints don't end there.

"Actually, this is something I have against the Democrat Party," Shami said at this weekend's LULAC candidate forum. "Clearly I don't say the Democratic Party, because they've been supporting one candidate because he's been a Democrat longer than me. That is not democratic."

Shami's correct to say White is the favorite going into the debate. The former Houston mayor made waves last week when he announced he'd raised more money than either the Hutchison or Perry campaigns, and then this weekend, he picked up the Texas AFL-CIO endorsement. The former Houston mayor has a track record of being low-intensity, some might even say dull.

That leaves Shami. His campaign is hoping their candidate can prove himself to viewers and make some news while he's at it. Maybe they should have got some inspiration from last night's underdog win in the Super Bowl. I hope someone did. It was a rough night for this Brief-writing Colts fan.

CULLED:

Office Space, meet the campaign world. Last night, the Kay Bailey Hutchison campaign ran one of the only entertaining ads of the Super Bowl. The ad featured Rick Perry's "attack ad headquarters," with one anti-KBH ad playing in the background. Nerdy characters fool with distorted images of the senator and scary music — and then, randomly, there's a room for shredding evidence of Perry's hypocrisy, where one guy loses it with the shredder. Probably good news for the Austin American-Statesman, which endorsed Hutchison this weekend while describing the campaign as "mediocre." Don't know about them, but that ad was much funnier than the ones for GoDaddy.Com.

Et tu, Tea Party? Ron Paul has drawn not one, not two, but three challengers with ties to the Tea Party movement. Many considered the congressman, who's long been an advocate for drastically limited government and debt reform, a founder of the Tea Party movement, despite his lack of involvement in the effort. Republican gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, who's drawing some TEA Party support, began as a volunteer for Paul. But the anti-incumbent bent of some Tea Party-ers appears to span political parties, and as his challengers have become more critical, Paul's had to become more vocal. He's also got a challenger from the Libertarian Party — the party he represented as a presidential candidate all those years ago.

• The Wasilla-Texas connection. Despite all the build-up to yesterday's Perry campaign rally, the star-studded guests were all on their best, albeit slightly dull, behavior. Last week's controveries faded into background, and Sarah Palin was a huge hit, with thousands of people attending to see the former governor in person. Her speech made no mention of Hutchison, and mainly just sung Perry's praises. Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, emceed the event and only obliquely referenced the rival campaign in his discussion of Perry's support for Roe v. Wade. Not even Ted Nugent had any major incendiary comments. C'mon guys, let's keep it interesting here.

“At the very mention of her name, the liberals, the progressives, the media elites, they literally foam at the mouth.” — Gov. Rick Perry explaining the effects of Sarah Palin at his pre-Super Bowl rally.

MUST READS:

Costs for shot at Congress build upSan Angelo Standard-Times

Three Democrats running small campaigns for big state jobAustin American-Statesman

Hutchison campaign aims to rally GOP sisterhoodThe Dallas Morning News

Budget shortfall looms large over governor's raceFort Worth Star-Telegram

Medina tax swap proposal comes at a costAustin American-Statesman

Event's collapse exposes tea party rifts in S.A.San Antonio Express-News

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