The Big Conversation:
The race to scoop up Rick Perry's erstwhile big-dollar donors is on.
As Politico reported Tuesday, with the governor now out of the race, his top donors — who helped him quickly raise more than $17 million in the third quarter of 2011, more than any other Republican candidate — appear to be split between Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.
Two major Texas donors, Roy Bailey and Jim Lee, sent an email to their fundraising network this week indicating that they're ready to throw their financial support behind Gingrich, whom Perry endorsed last week after dropping out of the race.
"Following Gov. Perry’s exit, Jim and I have been in close contact with the Gingrich camp," Bailey wrote in the email. "Jim and I are taking Gov. Perry’s lead. We have spoken with his campaign manager, national finance director, and Speaker Gingrich, himself. They know that Team Perry did a great job and has lots of capable finance leaders. They really want us to join their efforts. … We could make a big impact for Newt’s campaign if we organize and coordinate properly with them."
Bailey told The Dallas Morning News that many former donors will soon hold a conference call on the matter.
But at least one of Perry's former bundlers, Washington-based lobbyist Dirk Van Dongen, isn't on board the Gingrich train. Van Dongen, one of Perry's earliest high-dollar fundraisers in Washington, told Politico he had shifted his support to Romney immediately after Perry bowed out of the race.
The division underscores the fluidity of the Republican race, which only weeks ago appeared headed toward a Romney coronation. But Gingrich's last-minute surge, and subsequent commanding victory, in South Carolina on Saturday have upended the race.
As for Perry's own reminaing campaign money, whatever funds the governor has left could come back to Texas with him in the form of a contribution to his state PAC, Texans for Rick Perry. Perry could also choose to keep his federal campaign PAC intact, using the remaining amount for another possible run for federal office.
- The Houston Chronicle has compiled a list of Texas lawmakers' responses to President Barack Obama's Tuesday night State of the Union address, at which he set forth a list of domestic policy proposals that largely centered on income inequality. U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco, R-San Antonio, delivered a Spanish-language version of the Republican Party's official response.
- The Tea Party Express, a national conservative group, will endorse Ted Cruz today in the race for U.S. Senate, according to The Associated Press. Cruz, looking to chip away at front-runner David Dewhurst's lead, has already won the backing of such conservative groups as FreedomWorks and Club for Growth. The new endorsement comes as Cruz claims that he "effectively tied" Dewhurst in fundraising for the last quarter of 2011.
- The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Senate campaign of David Dewhurst said in a message to supporters Monday that the lieutenant governor holds a commanding lead over his Republican opponents, with Dewhurst at 50 percent, Tom Leppert at 9 percent and Ted Cruz at 5 percent, according to a new poll conducted by Austin-based pollster Mike Baselice. A survey released last week by Public Policy Polling showed the race much closer, with Dewhurst at 36 percent and Cruz at 18 percent.
“It could be [political], but the fact is that the administration has extended many opportunities before this one. So I don’t get the sense that it’s all for campaign purposes because I have had the opportunity to be involved before.” — San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro on his invitation to attend the State of the Union address
- Texas Town Embraces New Refugee Residents, NPR
- States' rights advocate to challenge Lamar Smith, San Antonio Express-News
- Interactive: Texas Economy by Region, December 2011, The Texas Tribune