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The Brief: Nov. 22, 2011

For the first time in a Republican debate this year, more eyes tonight may be on Ron Paul than on Rick Perry.

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The Big Conversation:

For the first time in a Republican debate this year, more eyes tonight may be on Ron Paul than on Rick Perry.

While Perry has spent the last two weeks trying to regroup from his "oops" gaffe, Paul has quietly moved to the top of at least two Iowa polls. As The New York Times recently reported, Paul appears to have found a foothold in the early-caucus state with the help of a highly organized grassroots campaign, heavy spending on TV ads and the addition of niche groups like home schoolers to his coalition of fervent supporters.

For Paul, that may translate to more attention at tonight's CNN-sponsored presidential debate — the 11th of the year — and a possible reversal of political fortune for the Texas congressman, whose campaign after the last debate, on Nov. 12, complained that he'd been given only 90 seconds to speak in the first hour.

This time, the Paul campaign appears more optimistic.

“Dr. Paul will continue to deliver his message of a strong national defense, saving money by cutting overseas nation-building and his vision for a pro-American foreign policy,” a top Paul adviser, Jesse Benton, told Politico in an email. “Due to our campaign's recent surge in key early states, we expect Dr. Paul to be treated like the frontrunner he has become and receive the fair share of questions his standing deserves.”

Paul may also benefit from the theme of tonight's debate: foreign policy and national security — topics on which he already receives attention for standing in sharp contrast to his Republican rivals. 

As for Perry, though he delivered one of his best debate performances yet at the Nov. 12 foreign policy debate, CBS News reports that a shaky appearance Monday night on Fox News — during which he struggled with a question about foreign aid — may spell further trouble for the governor, who remains stagnant in national and early-state polls.

Culled:

  • The so-called congressional supercommittee, co-chaired by U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Dallas, announced on Monday that it could not reach a deal to find at least $1.2 trillion in 10-year deficit reductions by its deadline this week. As the Tribune's Elizabeth Titus reports from Washington, though the stalemate has vexed both sides of the political aisle, Hensarling will likely face little political fallout at home. “He is so well thought-of in his district and by conservative Republicans around the region that I don't think there’ll be any negative impact on him," said Jonathan Neerman, a former chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party. "Voters will see this as a Washington problem."
  • Mitt Romney still holds a commanding lead in New Hampshire, with 41 percent of the vote, according to the latest Suffolk University poll. Ron Paul also maintained his second-place showing, at 14 percent, but now ties Newt Gingrich, who has jumped 10 points since September.
  • The Tribune's Jay Root reports today that the restoration of the Governor's Mansion, which was nearly destroyed when an arsonist threw a Molotov cocktail onto the porch in 2008, is nearing completion. "We really lost very little," said Dealey Herndon of the Texas State Preservation Board. "The real historic fabric was able to be saved and actually strengthened in some ways."

"My error was in saying that. … It was incorrect. … I shouldn't have said it. I do respect individuals across the country and their opinion on that."Rick Perry to Fox News on his remark in a September debate that opponents of a bill he signed extending in-state tuition to the children of illegal immigrants lacked a heart

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