The Big Conversation:
The presidential race has yet to recede, but a lively debate Thursday night finally thrust the race for U.S. Senate into the spotlight.
Ted Cruz, David Dewhurst and Tom Leppert, the race's three top Republican contenders, squared off last night in the first formal debate of the race to replace retiring U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison. New entrant Craig James and funeral home director Glenn Addison also participated in the event, which was held in Austin and sponsored by the Texas Public Policy Foundation and Empower Texans.
Dewhurst, the front-runner for the party's nomination, spent the night defending himself from attacks — which came mostly from Cruz — and touting his record of spending cuts as lieutenant governor, a position he has held since 2003.
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Cruz, the former state solicitor general, went after Dewhurst immediately, using his opening remarks to criticize the lieutenant governor for failing to attend previous candidate forums. "He has missed a total of 19 debates that we have had so far," said Cruz, who called himself the only "proven conservative and fighter" in the race.
Leppert, a former Dallas mayor, played up his business credentials and called Cruz and Dewhurst career politicians.
James, who officially announced his candidacy hours before the debate, promised "to rock the boat" in Washington and cited his belief in "God, family and the Constitution." Addison, calling himself the race's "common man," at times brandished a copy of the U.S. Constitution and elicited cheers from the crowd when he said he would abolish the Environmental Protection Agency and challenge the "spineless, wussy senators" who have failed to react to the threat of China, which he said is "stealing our jobs, stealing our intellectual property."
- Today marks the five-month anniversary of the launching of Rick Perry's presidential bid in South Carolina. Now back in the Palmetto State, in what could be the final days of his campaign, Perry faces longer odds than ever, with national conservative figures slamming him for his recent attacks on Mitt Romney and a high-profile South Carolina supporter having defected to the former Massachusetts governor. The Tribune's Jay Root reports.
- Rick Perry's ballot troubles continue. As the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday, the governor incorrectly filed for the March 20 Illinois primary, listing a post-office box address instead of his home address, as required by state law. As The Associated Press notes, of the Republican presidential candidates, only Mitt Romney and Ron Paul have avoided any such ballot blunders.
- Several Tea Party groups will host a straw poll at Minute Maid Park in Houston this weekend to gauge support for the presidential race and congressional and legislative races, the Houston Chronicle reports. Among the big-name Republicans expected to attend: Herman Cain, former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey and several GOP candidates for U.S. Senate
"Honestly, it looks like Governor Romney’s nomination is inevitable. Evangelicals, come November, might have to hold their noses and vote for the lesser of two evils. But it’s not November yet." — The Rev. Robert Jeffress of the First Baptist Church of Dallas to The Associated Press
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