• Cruz emerges as GOP leader (Public Policy Polling): "PPP's newest national poll finds Ted Cruz is now the top choice of Republican primary voters to be their candidate for President in 2016. He leads the way with 20% to 17% for Rand Paul, 14% for Chris Christie, 11% for Jeb Bush, 10% each for Marco Rubio and Paul Ryan, 4% for Bobby Jindal, and 3% each for Rick Santorum and Scott Walker."
• Senate Passes Budget Bill as House Weighs Options (The New York Times): "The Senate on Friday overwhelmingly approved stopgap spending legislation to keep the federal government open without gutting President Obama’s health care law, setting up a weekend showdown with the House that will decide whether much of the government shuts down at midnight Monday."
• Rep. Pete Sessions and Sen. John Cornyn hit back at FreedomWorks over Obamacare (The Dallas Morning News): "Two powerful Texas Republicans are hitting back at FreedomWorks, which has accused them of working with Democrats to protect funding for Obamacare. Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas called that a 'blatant misrepresentation.' An aide to Sen. John Cornyn said the attacks are only encouraging his supporters."
New in The Texas Tribune
• Medina, Running for Comptroller, Open to Bid for Governor: "Former gubernatorial candidate Debra Medina, running as a Republican this year for comptroller, said wealthy donors are encouraging her to run instead for governor — as an independent."
• Advocates' Suit Targets Abortion Restrictions: "Abortion rights advocates filed a lawsuit in federal court Friday seeking to block implementation of strict new regulations on the procedure in Texas."
• Business Group Breaks With Abbott Over Lawsuit: "The Texas Association of Business, in a slap at gubernatorial candidate Greg Abbott, endorsed the merger of American Airlines and US Airways. As attorney general, Abbott has joined with the U.S. Justice Department in opposing the merger."
• Citing New Evidence, Innocence Project Calls for Willingham Pardon: "The Innocence Project, joined Friday by Cameron Todd Willingham's stepmother and cousin, along with exoneree Michael Morton, cited new evidence in calling for an investigation of whether the state should posthumously pardon Willingham."
• To Ranchers, Lesser Prairie Chickens Just Mean More Government: "An odd-looking grouse with an intricate mating dance is at the center of an intense battle over wildlife conservation among energy companies, the federal government, Texas officials and environmental advocates."