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The Brief: June 1, 2012

It's becoming clearer just how vicious — and expensive — this summer's U.S. Senate runoff may get.

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The Big Conversation:

It's becoming clearer just how vicious — and expensive — this summer's U.S. Senate runoff may get.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and Ted Cruz have wasted no time this week jumping back into the ring ahead of the July 31 runoff. On Thursday, the two squared off in back-to-back appearances on Fox News, where they hit on their campaign talking points in front of a national audience.

But information has also begun to trickle out about the groups planning to work on their behalf this summer.

As the Tribune's Aman Batheja and Jay Root report today, the Cruz-supporting Club for Growth, a Washington-based conservative group that sunk $2.5 million into the primary, has set a goal of raising another $5 million to help Cruz in the runoff.

The group has taken some credit for Cruz's strong showing on Tuesday and has cast the race as a potential repeat of Indiana's recent Republican U.S. Senate primary, in which the organization helped an insurgent conservative defeat longtime Sen. Richard Lugar.

“I think you’re seeing a very similar narrative in Texas that you saw in Indiana, where you have an established moderate politician who has been in office for a very long time, challenged by a principled, free-market conservative," Barney Keller, a spokesman for the Club for Growth, told the Tribune. “It’s kind of a microcosm of a larger debate that is playing out.”

Forces supporting Dewhurst appear to be planning their own onslaught, too. Rob Johnson, co-founder of the Texas Conservatives Fund, a pro-Dewhurst Super PAC that aired advertisements attacking Cruz during the primary, said the group would continue to air ads to make sure that voters know “Ted Cruz is a conservative phony.” That's on top of the personal fortune Dewhurst would have at his disposal — over $15 million of which he loaned his campaign before the primary.

“I don’t think money will be an issue for either side,” Johnson said. “Cruz has the D.C. insiders, and I’m sure they’ll pony up D.C. money for him again.”

Culled:

  • Former U.S. Senate Craig James endorsed Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst at a news conference in Dallas on Thursday. "Texas is a role model and the most conservative state in the union," said James, who received about 4 percent of the vote on Tuesday. "That doesn’t happen if you don’t have great leadership. Our top two executives in this state of Texas, Gov. Rick Perry and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, have led that charge." According to The Dallas Morning News, Dewhurst said Thursday that he had also reached out to former Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert, who placed third on Tuesday, but didn't reveal whether he had secured his support.
  • In one of the biggest state Senate upsets on Tuesday, Republican Donna Campbell sneaked past her well-funded opponent Elizabeth Ames Jones to make a runoff with incumbent state Sen. Jeff Wentworth, R-San Antonio. Now, as the Morning News reports, Campbell has said she won't accept donations from Texans for Lawsuit Reform, the tort-reform group that donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jones' campaign. 
  • If the 2012 primaries are any indication, trial lawyers, typically supportive of Democrats, have become increasingly willing to invest in Republicans — and Republicans aren't saying no to the money. But as the Tribune's Morgan Smith reports, it's still unclear whether the stigma about trial lawyers themselves is waning for GOP voters.

"Mr. President, thank you for inviting my rowdy friends to my hanging." — Former President George W. Bush to President Barack Obama at the unveiling of Bush's official presidential portrait at the White House on Thursday

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