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The Brief: Dec. 8, 2015

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz hit a new milestone on Monday with his campaign, showing up at the top of a poll for the first time in the key early voting state of Iowa.

Sen. Ted Cruz phonebanking in Greenville, South Carolina on Dec. 7, 2015.

The Big Conversation

GOP presidential hopeful Ted Cruz hit a new milestone on Monday with his campaign, showing up at the top of a poll for the first time in the key early voting state of Iowa.

A Monmouth University poll had Cruz leading Donald Trump by 5 percentage points — 24 to 19 — in a survey of likely caucus goers. A CNN poll released later in the day had Trump up significantly over Cruz in Iowa, but the effect on Cruz supporters of the Monmouth poll was immediate.

The Tribune's Abby Livingston reported that news of the poll came as Cruz was at a campaign stop in South Carolina:

"The news began to circulate on smart phones: For the first time ever, the Texas presidential hopeful had topped a public poll in Iowa. ... The campaign agenda Monday was meant to be a round of Palmetto State ring kissing. Instead, Cruz had the bounce in his step of a frontrunner. Or, at the least, a candidate with the wind at his back."

In another Cruz-related development, one of the super PACs supporting his campaign, Keep the Promise I, announced Monday a new round of online ads and mail pieces to push Cruz in Iowa and South Carolina as well as other early voting states.

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek reported that "The 60-second ad, titled 'We the People,' is being 'strategically targeted' on social media in the first four early voting states, Keep the Promise I said. The spot features Cruz reciting a part of his stump speech in which he brags about his outsider status in the nation's capital. ... The mail pieces, each eight pages in a newspaper-style format, are going out this week to 130,000 households in Iowa and 320,000 in South Carolina, according to the super PAC."

The super PAC is spending more than $600,000 on the effort, Svitek reported.

Trib Must Reads

Texas Redistricting Case Could Have National Effect, by Abby Livingston – The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments Tuesday over how Americans are sorted into state legislative districts. A ruling could change the makeup of statehouses and, because state legislators draw the political maps, of Congress.

Syrians Small Fraction of Refugees Reaching Texas, by Alexa Ura and Jolie McCullough – Federal resettlement numbers show a refugee population in Texas that is mostly from Myanmar — which the U.S. State Department still classifies as Burma — and Iraq, with most living in the state’s major metropolitan areas.

Uber-Style Moving Companies Draw State's Attention, by Aman Batheja – A new breed of app-based moving companies has drawn the interest of the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles, which wants to ensure that companies with names like Buddytruk and PICKUP are following state laws.

Senators Tackle Improper Student-Teacher Relationships, by Kiah Collier – Posed with a troubling, social media-driven trend — a steady rise in improper student-teacher relationships — Texas senators began work Monday to figure out what, if anything, they can do about it.  

Cruz on Trump's Muslim Ban: 'That's Not My Policy', by Patrick Svitek – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Monday he does not support banning all Muslims from entering the country, distancing himself from an inflammatory proposal by rival Donald Trump. 

UT-Austin Proposes 3.1 Percent Tuition Increase, by Matthew Watkins – University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves is proposing a 3.1 percent tuition increase for next school year, he said Monday in a letter to students. 

Lamar Smith's Climate Views Win Flat Earth Award, by Jordan Rudner – Christmas elves, pirates and scientists gathered Monday to present climate change skeptic U.S. Rep. Lamar Smith, R-San Antonio, with a fake award from the “Flat Earth Foundation of Texas.” 

Judge: No Hearing This Week in Syrian Refugee Case, by Alexa Ura – A federal judge in Dallas said Monday it will be several weeks before he takes up a case in which Texas is suing the federal government and a refugee nonprofit over Syrian refugees, according to a lawyer connected to the suit.

High Court: Texas Death Row Inmate Can't Add Lawyer, by Johnathan Silver – The Supreme Court on Monday denied Texas death row inmate Robert Roberson III's petition to add another attorney to his team. Roberson has one more shot at delaying his execution with a petition arguing his rights were violated.

Cruz Takes First-Ever Lead in Early State Poll, by Patrick Svitek – Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz has taken his first-ever lead in an early state poll, surging past billionaire Donald Trump to the no. 1 spot in Iowa. 

Former FDA Head Joins UT-Austin Med School Faculty, by Matthew Watkins – Mark McClellan, who ran the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services under George W. Bush, will focus on reforming medical care and lowering costs.

The Day Ahead

•    The Senate Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by Sen. Charles Perry, is holding a public hearing at 9 a.m. at the Capitol to study and make recommendations on agricultural liens, the impact of airborne and windblown litter, marketing strategies and laws related to game animal management, domestic fowl production and the development of certain agricultural products.

•    U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, is hosting a 10 a.m. CST news conference in Washington, D.C., with Gov. Greg Abbott to discuss his legislation that would bar refugees from entering the United States from terrorist strongholds.

•    The U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Evenwel v. Abbott, a case looking at the legality of how Texas draws state Senate district lines.


Jeb Bush calls out Ted Cruz for vote curbing NSA surveillance, Politico 

Marco Rubio, Switching Focus, Aims to Halt Ted Cruz’s Momentum, The New York Times

Donald Trump Calls for Barring Muslims From Entering U.S., The New York Times

Gov. Abbott traveling extensively with taxpayer-funded security detail in tow, San Antonio Express-News

Paris climate summit: Boost or a bust for Texas energy?, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Cubans streaming to U.S. in record numbers, Houston Chronicle

Supreme Court deals blow to gun-rights advocates, Houston Chronicle

Education pays: 3 Texas college chiefs in millionaires club, The Dallas Morning News

Today in TribTalk

In Texas redistricting fight, a can of worms for everyone, by Michael Li — As the Evenwel v. Abbott redistricting case goes before the Supreme Court this week, there may be temptation to see it as yet another in the long chain of struggles between Anglos and Hispanics over power in Texas. But if maps have to be redrawn, the impact of Evenwel could be far more dramatic.

Quote to Note

"No, that is not my policy. I believe the focus should focus on radical Islamic terrorism, and we need to be directly focused on threats to the United States."

— U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, on Donald Trump's policy that would ban all Muslims from entering the country.

News From Home

•    Today, we are pushing out Texas Public Schools Explorer 2.0 — a completely redesigned, revamped version of our public schools app. It includes extensive records on EVERY public and charter school in Texas, and lets you easily find graduation rates, test scores and more for all of the 1,219 school districts and 8,646 public schools in Texas.

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. In this week's segment KUT’s Ben Philpott and the Tribune's Jay Root explain the evolution of the attack ad — and get some analysis on Chris Christie's recent bump in the polls from New Jersey Public Radio's Matt Katz.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A daylong symposium on Cybersecurity and Privacy on Dec. 9 at the University of Texas at San Antonio

•    A conversation about Houston & the Legislature: What's Next? on Dec. 15 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston

•    A conversation with former White House deputy chief of staff Karl Rove on Dec. 17 at the Austin Club

•    A conversation with state Reps. Celia Israel, Eddie Rodriguez and Paul Workman on Jan. 14 at St. Edward's University in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune's second Texas-centric Trivia Night on Jan. 31 at The Highball in Austin

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