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The Brief: Nov. 2, 2011

Dwarfed by presidential politics, the race for U.S. Senate in Texas remains fluid, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

The Big Conversation:

Dwarfed by presidential politics, the race for U.S. Senate in Texas remains fluid, according to the new University of Texas/Texas Tribune poll.

Among Republicans, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, the race's presumptive front-runner, leads handily, with 22 percent of the vote, 12 points ahead of his closest competitor, former Solicitor General Ted Cruz, at 10 percent. Former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert ties U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, at 5 percent (though McCaul announced last week, on the last day the poll was being conducted, that he wouldn't run for the seat).

But 50 percent of Republican voters remain uncommitted.

"I think that it's clearly a matter for insiders and political junkies," said Jim Henson, co-director of the UT/Tribune poll. "It's even more the case with Gov. Perry running for president. The news media are all covering Perry, and not this race."

Still, while the race remains wide open, Daron Shaw, who directs the poll with Henson, said the standings spell good news for Cruz, who has cast himself as a viable Tea Party alternative to the moneyed lieutenant governor.

"Those who thought Cruz was using the Senate race as a proving ground, they may want to think again," he said. "I think it's going to be a horse race."

On the Democratic side, former U.S. Rep. Chris Bell of Houston, who ran for governor in 2006, leads with 15 percent. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the only Democrat who has declared his candidacy, is in second with 11 percent.

As expected, the 2014 race to replace Dewhurst if he wins in 2012 — the state Senate will choose one of its own members to serve the remaining two years of Dewhurst's term — has yet to engage many Texans. Comptroller Susan Combs leads now with 14 percent of the vote, ahead of state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, at 9 percent, and Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, at 5 percent.

Culled:

  • The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Texas Senate Intergovernmental Affairs Committee will today hold a hearing on the state's troubled hurricane disaster relief program, which the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has criticized for having doled out just 10 percent of the federal grant money awarded to help areas ravaged by hurricanes Ike and Dolly in 2008.
  • The Houston Chronicle reports that fewer than one in 10 of the nearly 1,000 donors who helped George W. Bush break fundraising records in 2000 and 20004 have donated to Rick Perry's presidential campaign. Instead, most who have donated have sided with Mitt Romney, who has collected from 148 fundraisers, compared with Perry's 87.
  • Though the Herman Cain sexual harassment scandal has dominated national politics this week, Republicans in early-voting Iowa don't seem to have taken much notice yet, Politico reports. “Hardly anybody is talking about it,” said Gregg Cummings, the coordinator of Tea Party Patriots Iowa. “It’s not a big issue, in other words. I think the urgency of making sure that we get a conservative candidate to win the primaries is of greater concern to most of the Tea Party folks right now.”

"I think it’s both very good, and very risky." — U.S. Rep. Ron Paul to the Des Moines Register on the Occupy Wall Street movement

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