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The Brief: Sept. 15, 2015

With GOP frontrunner Donald Trump attracting thousands to a Monday night rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas Republicans increasingly must face this question: Can Trump win in Texas?

Republican Presidential contender Donald Trump speaks to a crowd of supporters at American Airlines Center in Dallas on Sept…

The Big Conversation

With GOP frontrunner Donald Trump attracting thousands to a Monday night rally at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas Republicans increasingly must face this question: Can Trump win in Texas?

Wade Emmert, the chairman of the Dallas County GOP, told the Tribune's Patrick Svitek"In Texas, before Trump got into the race, we were talking about how Texans were going to decide between Rick Perry, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and even Rand Paul."

Trump's prolonged popularity, though, is forcing a reassessment, Emmert suggested, to the point where it is "entirely possible he wins the Texas primary, especially if his poll numbers remain high leading up to March 1."

The reasons for Trump's staying power remain to some extent inexplicable, at least using traditional measures of political strength. As Svitek writes, Trump's "political resume is paper-thin, and his past liberal stands have so far failed to dampen his appeal among the GOP primary electorate. While Trump regularly travels to the early voting states and has staff in spades there, the bulk of his campaign so far has been waged on cable TV, which provides the unpredictable businessman with wall-to-wall coverage."

But for the moment, Trump seems immune to these traditional laws of political gravity. Svitek writes:

In Texas, where the March 1 primary carries more weight than usual in the GOP nominating process, Trump's organization appears loose at best and nonexistent at worst. But that may not be a problem with the increasingly national focus of the race, according to Emmert, the chairman of the Dallas County Republican Party. 

"Right now the national politics is driving much of the polling in Texas when it comes to these candidates," Emmert said. "The question is, can they win it without the organization in Texas? And I think absolutely they can." 

Trib Must-Reads

Nationalist Group Wants TX Secession on Primary Ballot, by Luqman Adeniyi – Texas already seceded once — in 1861. But the Texas Nationalist Movement wants a repeat a century and a half later, and thinks the March GOP primary is the place to start.

In Texas, Making Presidential Ballot Won't Be Hard, by Abby Livingston – Memo to Republican presidential candidates: Qualifying for the Texas primary will be a cakewalk.

House Committee to Revisit Stickland v. Pickett, by Aman Batheja – A state investigation that began after one House member ejected another from a hearing for allegedly signing up absent witnesses to support legislation could reach its conclusion Tuesday at a House committee hearing.

Perry Blames Indictment, Debates for Failed Campaign, by Abby Livingston – Rick Perry blamed his criminal indictment and exclusion from the Republican debate mainstage for his failed presidential bid in his first interview since suspending his presidential campaign on Friday.  

Trump Storms Dallas with Frontrunner's Braggadocio, by Patrick Svitek – Donald Trump's raucous presidential bid turned out thousands Monday night in Dallas for a rambling rally that easily qualified as the biggest 2016 campaign event so far in Texas.

After Worker Dies In Heat, Houston Company Fined $13,800, by Neena Satija – After finding a Houston-based recycling company at fault when a temporary worker died of heat illness, federal regulators are issuing a fine of $13,800.   

Officials Want Review of Privately Funded Prosecutions, by Tony Plohetski, Austin American-Statesman, and Jay Root – Officials in Travis County are calling for a review of privately funded prosecutions in Austin after a public-private partnership between the DA's office and an insurance company was reported by The Texas Tribune and the Austin American-Statesman. 

Cornyn: The Federal Government Will Not Shut Down, by Julián Aguilar – U.S. Sen. John Cornyn on Monday dismissed the idea of a federal government shutdown, saying instead that elected officials had a duty to serve despite disagreements within Congress.

In Embrace of Street Artist, Cruz Increasingly Courts Controversy, by Aman Batheja and Patrick Svitek – U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's presidential campaign has launched a business partnership with a street artist with a history of controversial statements on social media, including using racial epithets and rooting for President Barack Obama's assassination.

Elsewhere

Heidi Cruz a Potent Weapon for Husband's Campaign, The Washington Post 

Rick Perry 2016: He is out but his super PAC's not quite done yet, Politico

Wall Street's latest panic: Trump could win, Politico 

Donald Trump regales Dallas crowd with chest-thumping, promise of “wins”, The Dallas Morning News

Comptroller estimates close despite weak oil, Corpus Christi Caller-Times 

Hays County asks if gun-ban policy is legal, Austin American-Statesman

Potential Daniel Willis jurors questioned on ‘Black Lives Matter’, Austin American-Statesman

Kentucky Clerk Allows Same-Sex Licenses, but Questions Legality, The New York Times

Collin County expects $100K budget for Paxton prosecution, Houston Chronicle 

Quote to Note

“It’s kinda like flying an aircraft. When you fly into unexpected headwinds, you better find a safe place to land. And that’s exactly what we did last Friday.”

— Former Gov. Rick Perry on his exit from the presidential race. Perry cited his indictment and absence in the first GOP debate as reasons for his leaving the race. 

Today in TribTalk

A guide to understanding 2016 campaign finance rules, by Paul Hobby — Campaign finance was never exactly intuitive, and post Citizens United, it gets even less so. What can churches do? What can corporations do? And what’s up with the alphabet soup of political organizations that have proliferated across the landscape? 

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    The Ticket: A Live Recording and GOP Primary Debate Watch Party on Sept. 16 in Austin

•    A Conversation with UT-Austin President Gregory Fenves on Sept. 21 in Austin

•    A Conversation on The Road from Hurricane Rita on Sept. 22 in Beaumont

•    A Conversation on The Environment: The Next Five Years on Sept. 28 in Corpus Christi

•    A Conversation on God & Governing on Oct. 7 in Austin

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

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