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The Brief: Sept. 7, 2010

Starting today, you may a little less lonely while kvetching about politics.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

Starting today, you may a little less lonely while kvetching about politics.

That's because we've made it past Labor Day, the unofficial kickoff to campaign season across the nation.

Surely, the candidates — especially Gov. Rick Perry and Bill White, who started the back-and-forth in the gubernatorial race months ago and haven't let up since — didn't wait until now to start their barnstorming.

But tradition says voters generally don't start paying attention until this eight-week sprint toward Election Day, during which millions of dollars in campaign funds will be thrown around, largely for TV ads candidates will use to blanket the state.

For Texas Republicans, things are, not unexpectedly, looking up. Though Barack Obama lost Texas in 2008, an energized electorate helped propel many down-ballot Democrats into office across the state. Now, with the national mood set against Washington and Obama's approval rating among Texans at a bleak 34 percent, Republicans are riding high in what was already largely a deeply red state.

For White, now the state's highest-profile Democratic nominee, that means he faces a headwind while hitting Perry on the state budget and cronyism. Perry, meanwhile, will continue to paint White as an out-out-touch liberal trial lawyer and an "unknown." Both will surely be looking to avoid any association with the establishment.

And as the Tribune's Ross Ramsey notes in his write-up today: "Though neither side is revealing its strategy for the remainder of the race, it's not complicated. 'At this point, you know how this works,' says a White operative. 'You make sure the field people are doing what they need to do, that the communications people are doing what they need to do, that the fundraising people are doing their thing, and that the yard signs aren't sitting in a warehouse somewhere.'"

Look for similar dynamics to play out in other hot races across the state, including in Congressional District 17, sure to attract national attention as Democrat Chet Edwards fights for his life.

CULLED:

  • The first tiff of the unofficial start of campaign season in the governor's race has the candidates squabbling over the state's tourism advertising budget, which Bill White says should be slashed but Gov. Rick Perry is defending.
  • This might ring a bell: A Republican operative in Arizona is wooing candidates to run for office in the fall on the Green Party ticket. The operative, though, who's taking heat, has gone a more creative route with the process, recruiting from a crop of drifters and homeless people.
  • Llano County Republican Club President Fermín Ortiz says the state Republican Party recently held a meeting for Hispanic business leaders simply "so they could say they met with Hispanic leaders." Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri's response: "I don't know [Ortiz] from Adam."

"When your governor wants to play cowboy on the cover of Newsweek magazine with 'Come and Take It' boots, the civility … is all gone." — Major state Democratic donor Steve Mostyn in an interview with the Tribune's Elise Hu, answering calls that the "coward" ad — run by political action committee Back to Basics, which Mostyn finances — has taken civility out of the governor's race

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Effort aims to get conservative women to the polls, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

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