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The Brief: March 7, 2012

Though it's still a long shot, last night's election results have increased the chances that Texas could play a role in the presidential primary.

A voter casts a ballot in Travis County on November 2, 2010.

The Big Conversation:

Though it's still a long shot, last night's election results have increased the chances that Texas could play a role in the presidential primary.

Mitt Romney won decisively in several states, including Massachusetts and Idaho, but his narrow, 1-point victory over Rick Santorum in Ohio — as well as Santorum's own victories in Tennessee, Oklahoma and North Dakota — highlighted Romney's ongoing struggle to solidify his status as the presumptive Republican nominee.

And as the Austin American-Statesman notes, that makes it slightly more likely that the race may not be settled by May 29, when Texas votes.

Romney, for instance, faces potentially difficult contests in the weeks ahead, including the Kansas caucus on Saturday and the Alabama and Mississippi primaries on Tuesday. Missouri, whose nonbinding primary Santorum won handily last month, will also hold a caucus on March 17 to determine its delegate allotment.

Then again, Connecticut, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island all vote April 24 — five straight contests in which Romney is favored.

"May 29 is so late in the game that Romney would have to do poorly over the next few weeks, then he'd have to do poorly on April 3 in a place like Wisconsin, then he'd have to do poorly on April 24, and only in that case would Santorum still be alive," Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, told the Statesman.

As for how Texans may ultimately vote come May, The Dallas Morning News reported Tuesday that candidates may need look no further than Oklahoma, which voted last night, and whose politics and culture often mirror those of its neighbor to the south.

"Oklahoma's sort of your warm-up for Texas," Keith Gaddie, a political scientist at the University of Oklahoma, told the Morning News. "It's the road show presentation before you go to Broadway. If Romney doesn't win here, it's gonna be hard for him to go into Texas."

And Romney, indeed, lost last night's primary there, claiming 28 percent to Santorum's 34 percent.

Culled:

  • Texas' own Ron Paul endured a particularly rough Super Tuesday, notching no victories after predicting Sunday that he'd win the Alaska, Idaho and North Dakota caucuses. (Mitt Romney won Alaska and Idaho, and Rick Santorum took North Dakota.) Paul's only consolation was Virginia, where he claimed 41 percent of the vote against Romney, the only other candidate who qualified for the state's ballot, in a contest that otherwise inspired little enthusiasm. Alluding to his three-win prediction, Paul told supporters Tuesday before results started coming in: "We're going to find out something very special today, but this won't be the end all. This is a long-term operation."
  • Protesters rallied at the Capitol on Tuesday to denounce the likely demise of the state's Women's Health Program, which state Republican lawmakers have said they will end rather than allow Planned Parenthood to participate. "I just got fed up," said Marcia Ball, an Austin musician who organized the protest. "I suspected there were many people like me, including Christians and people of all ages, who think it’s a mistake to defund low-income women’s basic health care. All this defunding for political gain is hurting hundreds of thousands of low-income women."
  • The Austin American-Statesman reports that a Washington, D.C.-based federal court has requested more information about whether Congressional District 25 — currently represented by Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin — is a minority district protected by the Voting Rights Act or a white district. As the Statesman notes, if the court decides the district is protected, Texas' primary elections could face further delay.

"It's going to be May, I think, before you really start picking or choosing success or lack of success."Ron Paul to supporters on Tuesday

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