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The Brief: Oct. 5, 2011

With Rick Perry down and Chris Christie out, Mitt Romney may have hit a turning point.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney speaks at the Veterans of Foreign Wars national conference in San Antonio on Aug. 30, …

The Big Conversation:

With Rick Perry down and Chris Christie out, Mitt Romney may have hit a turning point.

Since August, when Perry entered the race, the path to the Republican nomination hasn't been clearer for the former Massachusetts governor, who breathed a sigh of relief after Christie — whom many assumed would compete with Romney for moderate and establishment voters and donors — announced on Tuesday that he'd decided not to run.

And with Perry on the ropes over the still-roiling camp-name controversy and uneven performance on the national stage, polls this week have repeatedly shown Romney reclaiming his lead among GOP voters, many of whom likely view him as the increasingly inevitable nominee. 

“He’s a middle-of-the-road guy, and even though it doesn’t make the conservatives 100 percent happy, he’s capable of making them 75 percent happy, and he’s capable of getting 51 percent against President Obama — which is a lot better than making the conservatives happy and getting 47 percent of the vote,” John Catsimatidis, a major New York donor, told Politico.

But if Perry's down, he's certainly not out. A strong performance on the debate stage — where he has so far set the bar fairly low — could put him back in the mix. And as Politico reported Tuesday, the Perry campaign is expected to show a formidable $15 million fundraising haul for the third quarter.

And while polls have put Romney back out in front, a closer look at the numbers shows that Perry's loss hasn't been Romney's gain. A CBS News poll released Tuesday showed that although Perry's numbers had been cut in half — from 23 percent to 12 percent — Romney's share increased only 1 point, to 17 percent, putting him in a first-place tie with businessman Herman Cain, who has gained traction after upsetting Perry at last month's Florida Straw Poll.

“Cain is a better version of what Rick Perry was trying to sell than Rick Perry is,” said chief Romney strategist Stuart Stevens.

Culled:

  • President Barack Obama, in a swing through Texas on Tuesday, delivered an impassioned defense of his jobs plan at a rally in Mesquite, aiming harsh words at congressional Republicans, specifically Majority Leader Eric Cantor. “I’d like Mr. Cantor to come out here to Dallas and explain what exactly in this jobs bill does he not believe in,” said Obama, who was introduced by a laid-off teacher named Kim Russell. “Mr. Cantor should come out to Dallas and look Kim Russell in the eye and tell her why she doesn’t deserve to be back in the classroom.”
  • In light of the Rick Perry camp-name controversy, the Austin American-Statesman has a look at Texas' storied history of geographical sites with racially charged names, 19 of which the state Legislature voted to change in 1991. Slate also found that hundreds of such names still exist across the country.
  • Check out Campaign Roundup, the Tribune's new one-stop shop for candidate announcements, retirements and rumors from the past week. This week: Add state Rep. Mark Shelton, R-Fort Worth, to the list of candidates running for Democrat Wendy Davis' seat in the state Senate.

"Too often the brightest stars are comets. But they flame out the fastest because they consume themselves on their own energy."Ron Kirk, the U.S. trade representative and former mayor of Dallas, on Rick Perry. Kirk traveled Tuesday with President Obama through Texas.

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