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The Brief: Feb. 8, 2012

Focus may have shifted to a resurgent Rick Santorum, but Ron Paul notched a victory of his own on Tuesday.

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The Big Conversation:

Focus may have shifted to a resurgent Rick Santorum, but Ron Paul notched a victory of his own on Tuesday.

After a disappointing third-place finish on Saturday in Nevada, where his campaign had ratcheted up expectations, Paul finished second in Minnesota's caucuses on Tuesday night, scoring 27 percent of the vote — about 11 points higher than his performance in the state in 2008, and about 4 points better than his second-place finish in New Hampshire in January.

Though Santorum upended the race on Tuesday, winning all three states holding nominating contests, which also included Colorado and Missouri, Politico notes that Paul's strong showing in Minnesota may have validated his caucus-state strategy, with which he's hoping to collect delegates in smaller states en route to the Republican National Convention.

"We had a very, very strong second place — and it’s going to continue," Paul told a crowd of supporters in Minnesota. "We do have to remember: The straw vote is one thing, but then there’s a whole other thing — delegates — and that is where we excel."

But Paul performed only modestly in Colorado and Missouri, scoring about 12 percent of the vote in each state. And the congressman himself said in a radio interview on Tuesday that he'll soon need to start winning states if he wants to keep fighting for the nomination. "You can hardly get enough delegates if you don’t start winning some," he said.

Paul's focus now turns to Maine, which started its weeklong caucuses last weekend and where Paul said Tuesday he has a "very good chance." The state will announce results on Saturday.

Culled:

  • Dan Grant, a Democrat running for Congress in the state's 10th District, has accused incumbent Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, of benefiting from lax ethics rules for congressional members, the Tribune's Jay Root reports. Grant says McCaul has stood to benefit from his family's financial interest in TransCanada, the company pushing the Keystone XL Pipeline, for which McCaul has advocated. A spokesman for McCaul denied any charges of insider trading and said the congressman has no involvement in his family's stock portfolio.
  • Rob Johnson, the campaign manager for Rick Perry's failed presidential bid, is now running a Super PAC for U.S. Senate candidate David Dewhurst called the Texas Conservatives Fund, Emily Ramshaw reported Tuesday. "Some of us who really know David Dewhurst, who know him well, know he’s the proven conservative and can serve Texas in the U.S. Senate," Johnson said. "People around the state are excited about the opportunity to help him."
  • Though churches are exempt from a recently announced federal rule requiring employers to provide contraception coverage in their health insurance plans, religiously affiliated institutions like universities and hospitals are not. And as Holly Heinrich reports, some in Texas say they don't plan to comply with the mandate.

"He’s a deplorable, dishonest person. He’s proven it time and time again in redistricting. I know it sounds over the top, but it’s true."Matt Angle, founder of the Lone Star Project, a Texas Democratic group, to Politico on U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar's alliance with Republicans in the state's redistricting fight

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