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The Brief: April 6, 2012

Supporters of Rick Santorum, who this week faced intensifying calls to drop out of the presidential race, have seized on a new game plan for the Texas primary: Change the rules.

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The Big Conversation:

Supporters of Rick Santorum, who this week faced intensifying calls to drop out of the presidential race, have seized on a new game plan for the Texas primary: Change the rules.

The Tribune's Jay Root reported Thursday that some Texas party activists want to change the state's May 29 primary so that the top vote-getter will receive all of the 152 delegates at stake. As of now, the delegates will be awarded proportionately based on the primary results, and three so-called superdelegates may vote for whomever they choose.

Santorum activists say they have enough support to hold an emergency meeting of the State Republican Executive Committee, which could then vote to approve the winner-take-all rule. The former Pennsylvania senator — who this week faced more prodding to exit the race after front-runner Mitt Romney won the Wisconsin, Maryland and Washington, D.C., primaries — said Wednesday that the new rule could be a "game-changer" for his campaign.

If Santorum won in Texas, where polls have shown him edging Romney, and he captured some of Newt Gingrich's delegates, “all of sudden this race doesn’t become as long a shot as the media would tend to dictate," he said Wednesday on a radio show in Pennsylvania.

Such a rule change, however, would face major obstacles. An official with the Republican National Committee, which would have to approve the change, said Thursday that the chances of the proposal winning approval were slim. A committee spokesman added that there was "no basis" for the change. The proposal might also require approval from the U.S. Justice Department, which must clear any changes Texas makes to its voting laws.

Weston Martinez, a member of the state executive committee and a Santorum backer, said he had already formally requested an emergency meeting from state party chairman Steve Munisteri, who will hold the meeting if 15 members of the 62-person group request one.

“I've received an enormous amount of support for this proposal and am encouraged that many of my colleagues feel the same way,” Martinez told the Tribune.

Culled:

  • After touring the region on Thursday, Gov. Rick Perry issued a disaster declaration for three North Texas counties — Dallas, Kaufman and Tarrant — ravaged by the tornadoes that tore through the area on Tuesday. "Today a lot of people are blessed to be alive," Perry said in hard-hit Lancaster, where several people were injured. "We need to thank the Lord; it could've been worse." No one was killed Tuesday, but local officials have put estimates for damage in the tens of millions of dollars.
  • In the the second installment of a five-part series on the struggles of failing school districts, the Tribune's Morgan Smith looks at North Forest Independent School District, which was marked for closure but has been granted a reprieve. Still, the question of whether students would be better off attending different schools hangs over the district's future. (Part one of the series examined whether closing a district ends up benefiting students.)
  • In his State of the City address this week, El Paso Mayor John Cook spent most of his time talking corruption, saying the city must confront the scandals that have plagued its government, and transportation, which he said needs improvement as the region grows. But Cook, as the El Paso Times reports, also got political, taking the opportunity to knock the Christian group that tried to recall him and two city representatives for voting to extend health benefits to the partners of gay and unmarried city employees. "Bigotry disguised as religion is still bigotry," Cook said to applause.

"I'm going to pass on that one."Rick Perry, who has endorsed Newt Gingrich, to The Dallas Morning News when asked whether the Republican Party should start rallying behind Mitt Romney

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