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The Brief: July 17, 2015

The super PACs backing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz think his path forward is highlighting how "wedge issues" make him the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton, according to a presentation leaked Thursday.

U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, R-Texas, shakes hands at The Citizens United Freedom Summit in South Carolina, May 9, 2015.

The Big Conversation

The super PACs backing U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz think his path forward is highlighting how "wedge issues" make him the strongest candidate against Hillary Clinton.

The strategy was revealed late Thursday through a leaked presentation, and as the Tribune's Patrick Svitek reports, it "offers the most revealing look yet at how — and why — Cruz's supporters believe" he can fire up Republican voters:

The 51-slide pitch — titled "Can He Win?" — is particularly harsh on 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, whom it calls a "terrible candidate with a terrible campaign." Part of Romney's problem, according to the presentation, is that he had "NO WEDGE OR MAGNET ISSUE" to drive up Republican turnout against President Obama.

Cruz, on the other hand, ranks as the Republican Party's best shot at exploiting wedge issues against presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, according to the super PACs. The presentation lists five issues on which it suggests Cruz would be the most competitive GOP nominee in a general-election matchup with Clinton: "Common Core," "Immigration," "Future Not Past," "National Security" and "Foreign Money."

And in other Cruz developments, his book will, after all, be on the New York Times best-seller list following days of back-and-forth in which the Cruz campaign accused the newspaper of leaving his book out intentionally.

Trib Must-Reads

Analysis: The Center Did Not Hold, by Ross Ramsey — Middle ground is arguably the most dangerous turf for a Texas lawmaker to occupy these days, and new research shows that none are doing it. The gap between moderate Republican and Democratic lawmakers is growing.

Texas vs. the Feds: A Look at the Lawsuits, by Neena Satija, Ryan McCrimmon and Becca Aaronson — Here's an updated look at the lawsuits filed by Texas against the Obama administration.

TDCJ Officer Beaten With His Own "Pry Tool," by Terri Langford — A Texas correctional officer killed while escorting a prisoner to his cell was beaten to death with a two-foot pry bar, a tool guards carry to unlock the small meal tray openings in a cell door, The Texas Tribune has confirmed.  

Texas Needs Federal Money for Uninsured, HHSC Told, by Sophia Bollag — Hospitals that serve large uninsured populations stand to lose critical funding if Texas can’t convince the federal government to continue helping the state pay, doctors and health advocates told the state health department Thursday.

Upgrade of AG's Child Support System Facing Problems, by Aman Batheja — Started during Greg Abbott's tenure as attorney general, a project to upgrade the technology for the state’s antiquated child support enforcement system is years behind schedule. The AG's office, now under the leadership of Ken Paxton, is hoping to restructure the project.

Deep-Pocketed Donors Fuel Abbott's Massive Haul, by Patrick Svitek — Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday disclosed his campaign's finances, confirming a massive $8.3 million haul over nine days.

Perry's Legal Defense Bill Now Tops $2 Million, by Patrick Svitek — Former Gov. Rick Perry has now spent more than $2 million in state campaign cash fighting the abuse-of-power indictment against him.

George P. Bush on Cruz: "We Can Still Be Friends," by Abby Livingston — Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush sat down with the Tribune on Thursday for a wide-ranging interview covering U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, the health of Bush's grandfather and more. 

George H.W. Bush in Fair Condition After Fall, by Liz Crampton — Former President George H.W. Bush remained hospitalized Thursday, the day after a fall at his home in Kennebunkport, Maine, in which he fractured a bone in his neck.

Paul to Make First Texas Trip as Official 2016 Candidate, Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is making his first campaign trip to Texas as an official candidate for the White House.

Elsewhere

Rangers Investigating Death of Woman in Police Custody, The Washington Post

Cruz Threatens to Cut Off Authorization for State Dept. Funding After Nuke Deal, Washington Free Beacon

Donald Trump says Rick Perry did ‘terrible job’ securing border, Perry says Trump offering ‘toxic nonsense,’ The Dallas Morning News

Rick Perry is going to war with Donald Trump's 'nonsense,' Business Insider

Abbott, wary of using taxpayer funds, pays for most travel with political cash, The Dallas Morning News

Costs soar for Perry legal defense, San Antonio Express-News

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on El Chapo: 'We've got a prison cell waiting for him,' Houston Chronicle

Mayoral hopefuls holding back on ads in early going, Houston Chronicle

Court delays Texas execution that had been set for Thursday, The Associated Press

Mental health bill would have been ‘unnecessary legislation,' Wichita Falls Times Record-News

State Sen. Royce West calls on DPS to release video of woman’s traffic stop, The Dallas Morning News

Education giant Pearson lays off 208 Texas employees, mostly in Austin, Austin American-Statesman

Quote to Note

"We can still be friends."

— Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush on U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, whom he endorsed for his Senate race but is now his father's rival in the 2016 GOP presidential race

Today in TribTalk

Data centers are a wise investment for Texas, by Charlie Geren — Bringing Facebook to Fort Worth will create jobs, boost tax revenue and drive billions of dollars in capital investment. And it wouldn't have been possible without reasonable state and local incentives.

News From Home

•    The latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT is out. Jay Root and Ben Philpott break down the campaign announcement speech of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and talk to Craig Gilbert, the Washington, D.C., bureau chief for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Oct. 16-18 at the University of Texas at Austin

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