The Big Conversation:
The implosion of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign on Thursday unleashed some of the loudest — and hardest-to-ignore — Perry-for-president rumor-mongering yet.
The latest, juiciest claim? That the governor's "90 percent likely" to run.
So says The Daily Caller's Matt Lewis, who reported last night that, according to "two separate and reliable sources in Texas," Perry aides Dave Carney and Rob Johnson — who, along with a slew of other top aides, resigned from the flailing Gingrich campaign Thursday — will head south to help the governor prepare for a White House run.
Carney remains the governor’s top political adviser, and Johnson ran Perry’s successful gubernatorial re-election campaign last year.
RealClearPolitics also reported Thursday that a source "close to Perry's political team" said the governor is "leaning toward" entering the race.
As Tribune pollster Jim Henson told our own Jay Root, the Gingrich exodus — reportedly spurred by disagreements between aides and the candidate over the direction of the campaign — presents a virtually perfect opportunity for Perry. "One of the big insider discussions has been, how could Perry run without the core of his team that's been so key to his success? This answers that," Henson said, adding, "In my mind, there has never been any question that, if the idea of a Perry candidacy became serious, Carney would return. But the fact that both he and Rob Johnson are leaving makes it hard to interpret this any other way."
But earlier in the day, Carney, when asked by the Caller whether his defection from Team Gingrich meant Perry would enter the race, said "absolutely not." The governor's representatives also continued to flatly deny the rumors. "He’s focusing on the legislative session and running the state," said Perry spokesman Mark Miner. "Today’s events don’t change anything." Miner, according to the Houston Chronicle, on Thursday also denied reports claiming that Perry met with fundraisers last week to discuss a presidential run.
Perry, who for months denied any interest in running for higher office, recently admitted that he'd been "thinking about" making a go at the presidency. A number of news outlets have since reported, citing unnamed sources, that the governor's family has encouraged him to run.
Politico also recently reported claims that Perry's decision could hinge on whether former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin enters the race. RealClearPolitics notes that a Perry candidacy could also clash with that of U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, another socially conservative, Tea Party-backed candidate looking to make a play for the GOP nomination.
- After 16 hours of debate, the Texas House passed a key piece of fiscal legislation early Friday morning, but not before, as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports, a late-night fight over gay rights threatened to topple the entire bill, leading to one of the most emotional debates of the session. Republican Rep. Wayne Christian's amendment to ban state funding of gender and sexuality centers at state universities drew strong rebukes from Democrats, including Reps. Dawnna Dukes of Austin, Senfronia Thompson of Houston and Ruth Jones McClendon of San Antonio, who at one point called the debate "sickening." Christian, who complained that he'd been accused of discrimination for "standing up for traditional values," withdrew the amendment after Democrats appeared ready to derail the entire bill. "I pray for the day when we actually can discuss things and bring those walls of prejudice down," Christian said.
- Earlier in the day, conservatives grew frustrated with a House vote to keep the so-called "Amazon tax" — a measure, opposed by Gov. Rick Perry, that would close internet sales-tax loopholes — and to direct any surplus in the Rainy Day Fund to Texas schools.
- The Trib's Julián Aguilar reported Thursday on a series of emails that have exposed a rift between Gov. Rick Perry's office and Republican boosters, some of whom think efforts to pass "sanctuary cities" legislation will hurt the GOP's relationship with Hispanics.
"You may talk about them. You may dog them. You may discriminate against them but they are taxpayers. They go and serve in the military. They happen to be doctors, lawyers and they serve in many, many capacities within our society." — State Rep. Senfronia Thompson during debate over an amendment that would have banned state funding of gender and sexuality centers at state universities, as quoted in the El Paso Times
New in The Texas Tribune:
- While Perry Rejects Federal Reform, State Agency Quietly Presses On, by Emily Ramshaw
- Texas Inmate at the Nexus of Execution and Abuse, by Brandi Grissom
- This week's TribCast, in which, if you haven't listened already, Evan, Reeve, Ben and Emily respond to The Response