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The Brief: June 14, 2011

Monday night's Republican presidential debate included no Rick Perry. But that didn't stop some from naming him one of the winners.

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The Big Conversation:

Monday night's Republican presidential debate included no Rick Perry. But that didn't stop some from naming him one of the winners.

Three story lines emerged from analysis of last night's CNN debate in New Hampshire, the first major meeting of the Republican candidates this season: Mitt Romney went unscathed, Tim Pawlenty retreated and Michele Bachmann surprised.

But as Nate Silver of The New York Times' FiveThirtyEight notes, the debate — at which the seven Republicans reserved most of their criticism for Barack Obama — left an opening for Perry, whom many Republicans, unimpressed by the current field, have been pressuring to enter the race. Perry has only said that he's "thinking about" a run, though recent news reports have claimed he's likely to jump in.

Silver writes that after last night, Perry looked more than ever like "the most conservative candidate who is electable," a title that Pawlenty, a former Minnesota governor, seemed to have claimed beforehand. But during the debate, Pawlenty backed away from criticizing front-runner Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, a move that could help Perry.

"Given that Mr. Pawlenty is treading water in polls — moving up in some, but stagnant in others despite several candidates having dropped out of the field — Republican elites may be wondering whether he will 'click' with voters and whether he is fact up to the task of taking on Mr. Romney," Silver writes, adding, "If Mr. Perry can instead play the role of 'generic Republican' — only with better hair and more fundraising prowess — their support could shift toward him."

The Austin American-Statesman, though, wonders whether Perry could withstand national scrutiny.

The Tribune's Jay Root reports that the speculation comes as Perry's name has begun appearing on an online ad, running in New Hampshire, that touts the governor's efforts to push tort-reform legislation.

Perry also continues his swing through the U.S. this week. On Sunday, he spoke at an anti-abortion rally in Los Angeles, and on Saturday, he'll speak at a Republican leadership conference. Tonight, he headlines the Republican Party of Manhattan's Lincoln Day Dinner in New York City as a replacement for Donald Trump. Of Perry, the head of the Republican group says, "I can’t recall the last time we’ve had this much excitement about a speaker coming in."

Culled:

  • Another Texan who's been less coy about his presidential ambitions, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, also debated on CNN Monday night, hitting his familiar anti-Fed, states' rights talking points in his trademark fiery fashion.
  • A Senate committee voted along party lines Monday evening to send the "sanctuary cities" bill — the session's most controversial piece of immigration-related legislation — to the full Senate, the Trib's Julián Aguilar reports. The measure, as it did during the regular session, drew impassioned debate, including one exchange pitting Sen. Chris Harris, R-Arlington, against a representative from an immigrants rights group who had chosen to testify in Spanish. The bill, which Gov. Rick Perry added to the special session agenda last week, stalled during the regular session but now looks virtually assured of passage.
  • The El Paso City Council will vote today whether to overturn the November ballot initiative that revoked health benefits for gay and unmarried partners of city employees. Mayor John Cook said he expected a tied vote, which Cook, who supports overturning the ballot initiative, could then break. The effort has provoked a strong rebuke from a prominent El Paso pastor who said he'd push to recall the mayor and any representatives who support the measure if it passes.

"If you want to know why we can't pass legislation in Texas it's because we have 37, no, 36 Hispanics in the Legislature. So that's part of our problem, and we need to change those numbers. We need to do something about that, in fact."Rebecca Forest, co-founder of Immigration Reform Coalition of Texas, during a weekend rally in support of the "sanctuary cities" legislation, which a Senate committee advanced Monday. State leadership on Monday condemned Forest's comments, as the Houston Chronicle reports.

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