The Big Conversation:
With early voting now under way, an internal campaign email has ratcheted up the drama in the state's U.S. Senate race.
In the email, obtained by Politico, Dave Carney, a top political adviser to Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst claims that rival Tom Leppert, the former Dallas mayor, could finish ahead of Ted Cruz, the former state solicitor general, whom recent polling has shown running second to Dewhurst.
"I assume by today Leppert has close the margin and is now ahead of Ted," Carney wrote in the email, which was sent internally on Thursday. "Leppert's TV ads and debate performances are clearly helping him. Expect the mayor to define and engage Cruz outside of dallas so he can bury Cruz and finish second. … With Cruz flat-lined and the Mayor growing, (pollster Mike) Baselice tells me he is confident Leppert could thread the needle and pass Cruz as Staffer and his allies attack only us."
The email reflects the fluidity of the race, in which several Republican contenders have set their sights on second place — and a spot in a potential runoff alongside Dewhurst, the presumptive front-runner.
But, as Politico notes, Carney may have also been attempting a head-fake — hoping to distract from Cruz, whom polls have shown gaining ground on Dewhurst, and who last week got a boost from the conservative Club for Growth, which announced a $1 million ad buy targeting Dewhurst.
"It conveys the impression that Dewhurst's camp is most concerned about Cruz making the runoff, creating a very different frame for a two-man race," Maggie Haberman writes.
After all, in the wake of longtime Indiana Sen. Dick Lugar's defeat last week, attention in conservative circles turned not to Leppert but to Cruz, whom Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard deemed the next insurgent conservative capable of pulling off an unexpected victory.
- Early voting begins today and runs through May 25. Use our election brackets to help you prepare, and find your polling place here.
- Though David Dewhurst has been skipping newspaper editorial board meetings as Election Day approaches, the lieutenant governor still scored the endorsement of The Dallas Morning News, which says Dewhurst's "experience, record and knowledge make him the best Republican in this field." The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, meanwhile, endorsed Tom Leppert, calling him "an intelligent, hardworking leader who has experienced success in both the public and private sectors."
- Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell won a second three-year term on Saturday, besting closest challenger Brigid Shea 52 to 37 percent. Three City Council incumbents — Sheryl Cole, Mike Martinez and Bill Spelman — also won re-election. Meanwhile, in three other areas of Texas over the weekend, including Dallas County, the U.S. Justice Department monitored local elections to ensure compliance with the Voting Rights Act.
"Anyone who claims they know what this weird, late May 29 primary is going to do for voter turnout is making stuff up." — Conservative activist Michael Quinn Sullivan to The Associated Press
- St. David's could be among first Episcopal churches in Texas to offer blessing for same-sex unions, Austin American-Statesman
- Arizona Ron Paul supporters boo Romney's son off stage, The Arizona Republic
- Death Sentence Reviews Leave Unsettled Issues, The Texas Tribune