The Big Conversation:
The escalating fight between Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney has spawned an unlikely Texas alliance (of sorts).
As the Houston Chronicle observes, the rise of Gingrich — still leading in most early-state and national polls — and Romney's continued hold on second place may unite Rick Perry and Ron Paul at tonight's Republican debate in Sioux City, Iowa, the last such event before the Jan. 3 Iowa caucuses.
The two Texans, both looking for traction in Iowa and beyond, will likely aim their attacks at the two front-runners.
Paul — who has recently drawn attention for his rise to the top tier of several Iowa polls (including one this week showing him 1 point behind Gingrich) — has already taken several shots at the former U.S. House speaker, accusing him in TV ads of "serial hypocrisy" and painting him as a corrupt Washington insider. Paul, the thinking goes, would more easily draw voters from conservative Gingrich than from establishment Romney.
Perry, meanwhile, has kept his sights on Romney, whom Team Perry views as an easier target. "Perry can contrast himself with the more moderate Romney more easily than with the more conservative Gingrich," Texas A&M University political scientist George C. Edwards III tells the Chronicle. Perry has spent months hammering Romney and appeared to have landed a blow this week as Romney took heat for offering Perry a $10,000 wager at Saturday's debate in Des Moines.
Tonight's debate comes a day after Perry kicked off his two-and-a-half-week, 40-plus-city Iowa bus tour, which his campaign hopes will revive his chances in the first-test state. Recent polls have shown Perry's numbers ticking upward in Iowa but still mired in the low single or high double digits.
Tonight's debate will air on Fox News at 8 p.m. Central and stream live on YouTube.
- With the fate of Texas' 2012 elections upended by recent redistricting rulings, Republican lawmakers on Wednesday pressured party leaders to keep the state's primary elections on a single day, the San Antonio Express-News reports. While the party has pushed to split the primary across two dates (one in March and one in May), much of the state's congressional delegation and most of its Republican state senators have signed on to statements warning that a second primary would confuse voters and dampen turnout. As one political observer tells the Express-News, Rick Perry may have reason to hope that the primaries don't move to May. "Assuming Perry is still in the (GOP presidential) race, Texas could be helpful to him" in March, he says.
- Rick Perry touted his anti-abortion credentials at the screening of an abortion documentary hosted by Mike Huckabee in Iowa on Wednesday night, the Des Moines Register reports. Perry cited his tenure as governor, during which he recently signed a state budget that cut funding to Planned Parenthood, as an indication of the abortion policies he would push as president. He also said he would try to pass a "human life amendment" to the U.S. Constitution. "I can assure you one thing: If Washington, D.C., is looking for a fight, they found one," Perry said.
- John Raney has defeated Bob Yancy in the House District 14 election to fill the seat of state Rep. Fred Brown, R-Bryan. The two Republicans competed alongside another Republican, a Democrat and a Libertarian in the only race for state office on the ballot in November, and in Tuesday's runoff, Raney claimed 58 percent of the vote to Yancy's 42 percent.
"I’m all for raw milk. I think you should make your own choice on whether you drink raw milk or not." — Ron Paul at a recent campaign stop in Iowa
- Evan Smith: Rick Perry’s Presidential Candidacy a Bitter Pill for Texans, The Daily Beast
- Ron Paul: The Alternative Candidate is a force to be reckoned with, The Washington Post
- In Iowa, British-Accented Radio Host Draws G.O.P. Hopefuls, The New York Times
- Interactive: Shortage of Texas Psychiatrists, The Texas Tribune