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The Brief: Jan. 17, 2011

At Gov. Rick Perry's swearing-in tomorrow, look for signs.

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THE BIG CONVERSATION:

At Gov. Rick Perry's swearing-in tomorrow, look for signs.

It'll be hard not to, after all, given the relentless will-he-or-won't-he presidential speculation that recently followed him on the national media tour he took to promote his new book and flaunt his conservative credentials.

As The Dallas Morning News reports today, observers are wondering whether Perry will use his inaugural address to talk issues beyond Texas, further bolstering his national profile. "Perry is saying, 'Look here what I have done; I've got a blueprint for the country,'" Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas, tells the Morning News. "His inaugural will be that Texas works."

Perry has repeatedly denied any interest in the presidency, but his frequent talk show and cable news appearances since his win in November — as well as the three trips he has planned to the D.C. area next month — have done little to quell the rumors.

Last week, the governor also led the charge in downplaying the state's budget woes, instead using the opening of the legislative session to push two pet projects: property rights and immigration. As the Tribune's Ross Ramsey writes today, the latter's a balancing act for the governor, but he's using it to his advantage right now.

Some, in fact, see parallels between Perry and George W. Bush, who used his 1999 gubernatorial inauguration to quietly begin a presidential run. Bush, though, had a number of factors on his side. As state Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, colorfully puts it, "Bush was further up the ladder at this time. He had a lot of stuff that Perry probably doesn't have — I call it being a member of the Lucky Sperm Club."

CULLED:

  • Add Comptroller Susan Combs and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson to the list of names looking to move up the statewide-office ladder if Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst does, in fact, make a play for U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison's seat in 2012. Patterson, whose announcement came in a press release, said, "It would difficult for someone else to scare me away." Combs, though, played it a little more coy. "I am, of course, focused on the session, but I'm seriously looking at it if the stars align, and there are a lot of stars that have to align correctly," she said.
  • As for that Senate seat, Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert appears more likely than ever to jump into the mix, having confirmed that he won't run for re-election.
  • In a sign of just how heated the fight's become, the state didn't even bother to show up to the site of the latest skirmish of the Texas vs. Washington environmental-regulation battle. Texas officials boycotted a Friday hearing in Dallas seeking public comment on the federal takeover of state emissions permitting, but a contingent of environmental activists attended to show support for the Environmental Protection Agency, which is poised to take over regulation in the state.

"If I had a town meeting and was still in Congress, I'd invite all the Texans who have a concealed weapons license to my town meeting and I'd advertise it. Because the person who wanted to come shoot me would have to think once again about committing suicide walking into my town hall meeting." Tom DeLay, appearing on MSNBC's Hardball

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