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The Brief: Aug. 7, 2012

A week later, the forces that helped push Ted Cruz to victory already face another test.

Ted Cruz supporters at his election night watch party in Houston on July 31, 2012.

The Big Conversation:

A week later, the forces that helped push Ted Cruz to victory last week already face another test.

Tea Party supporters, as well as national conservative figures like Sarah Palin, may have scored their highest-profile victory yet with Cruz, who defeated Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst by a 13 points last Tuesday in the runoff for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate. 

But the movement, which many have also credited with propelling other insurgent Republicans to victory this year in states like Indiana and Nebraska, this month may face its toughest challenge yet as it seeks to influence primary races in three other states: Arizona, Missouri and Wisconsin.

The difference? According to The Associated Press, it's the candidates, many of whom have struggled to catch fire like Cruz, whose late surge stunned the Texas political class.

"The uncertain outlook shows that winning as a tea party candidate still takes a combination of factors, even in states where Republicans are conservative and getting more so," the AP writes. "Holding sole claim to the tea party label is a big help, along with strong campaign skills and vulnerable opponents. Few hopefuls manage to have all three."

In Missouri, which votes today, conservative forces have largely split their support among three GOP candidates looking to take on Democratic U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill in November.

"The voters in Missouri are conservative like Texas, so I certainly hope it’s going to help," one of the candidates, Sarah Steelman, whom Palin has endorsed, said the day after Cruz's win. The most recent polling, though, has shown one of Steelman's opponents, businessman John Brunner, in front.

Similar dynamics have played out in Wisconsin, where former Gov. Tommy Thompson and three other Republicans have spent months trying to out-conservative one another. Recent polling showed the race a virtual three-way tie between Thompson and two others.

Culled:

  • The University of Texas at Austin on Monday filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court in a case challenging the school's use of race in its admissions process. The university then released a YouTube video featuring its president, Bill Powers, expressing support for the university's practices, which include a so-called holistic review of applicants used to promote diversity. "We are confident that we will prevail in this case and that this will bring benefit to American higher education and to our nation and to the state of Texas," Powers says. The closely watched case will be heard in October.
  • State Rep. Charlie Geren, the Fort Worth Republican who chairs the House Administration Committee, sent a letter to his House colleagues on Friday saying he would not fulfill a request the Tribune is making of all state legislators to release their federal income tax returns, Thanh Tan reports. "I will not be providing mine to them," Geren wrote, reminding lawmakers that they were "under no legal obligation" to do so. At least two lawmakers, including the vice chairwoman of Geren's committee, Donna Howard, D-Austin, have so far said they would release their returns.
  • George P. Bush, the nephew of George W. Bush and son of Jeb Bush, will serve as deputy finance chairman for the Republican Party of Texas. "I am excited about this opportunity to help the Republicans Party here in Texas. We have excellent candidates running for office who, once elected, will continue the tradition of making Texas the greatest State in the Union," Bush, who lives in Fort Worth, said in a statement, according to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Long seen as a rising star in the party, Bush has also co-founded groups pushing for more youth and Hispanic involvement in the Republican Party.

"There are two ways to run, scared and unopposed. I’m not unopposed, so I’m still running scared and hard, like I’ve got ground to make up." — Ted Cruz to The Associated Press

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