The Big Conversation

Former Gov. Rick Perry, whose own bid for the White House ended four months ago, has endorsed fellow Texan Ted Cruz for president.

Politico reported the move early this morning.

In a Sunday night interview, Perry told Politico that the GOP nominating contest "appears to be down to two people" and that between Cruz and Donald Trump, "Ted Cruz is by far the most consistent conservative in that crowd." 

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek notes that Perry has been critical of Trump, calling him at one point a "cancer on conservatism." He also has supported Cruz in statements after leaving the presidential contest, "most recently praising his tax plan and defending him against backlash for his use of the term 'New York values.'”

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As far as Perry's role in the upcoming crucial days before the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses, Svitek reports that Perry will be a "full-fledged surrogate for Cruz. The campaign sees him as particularly helpful on veterans issues, which he made central to his own bid, and while he spent the final weeks of his run assailing Trump, his portfolio will not be confined to that."

Trib Must Reads

Looking to Expand International Programs, UT-Austin Eyes Mexico, by Matthew Watkins — One of University of Texas at Austin President Greg Fenves' top priorities in his first year in office is to expand UT-Austin’s international presence. And a key part of that mission will be Mexico, which Fenves will visit this week.

Analysis: Legislators Seeking a More Efficient Approach to Jail Policies, by Ross Ramsey — The “lock-them-up-and-throw-away-the-key” crowd has given way to another wave — across party lines, by the way — that’s trying to rework everything from who police take to jail to who remains there overnight.

Amid Intense VP Buzz, Julián Castro Tours Iowa for Clinton, by Patrick Svitek — As U.S. Housing Secretary Julián Castro spent a day of campaigning for Hillary Clinton in Iowa, the Texas Democrat found himself in a familiar position: waving off questions about whether she will pick him as her running mate.

In Nine Trips to Supreme Court, Ted Cruz Saw Mixed Results, by Aman Batheja — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz belongs to an elite club of lawyers who have repeatedly argued before the U.S. Supreme Court. A closer look at the nine times the Texan argued before the justices shows wins and losses as he challenged legal limits.

Clinton Campaign Official Admits Texas Effort Lagging, by Jamie Lovegrove — A top Clinton official acknowledged to volunteers in Austin Sunday evening that the campaign should have built up its organization in the state earlier ahead of the March 1 primary, yet predicted Clinton will still do well in Texas.

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Cruz Launches Final Iowa Tour Warning of Danger of Trump Win, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz began his final swing through Iowa on Saturday offering contrast after contrast between him and billionaire Donald Trump, hoping to close the deal with caucus goers nine days before the contest.

At Iowa Rally, Glenn Beck Endorses Ted Cruz, Denounces Trump, by Patrick Svitek — Conservative media personality Glenn Beck on Saturday endorsed Ted Cruz for president, while urging urged Iowans to stop billionaire Donald Trump dead in his tracks.

Sky-high Power Rates Spark Outrage in Rural Texas, by Jim Malewitz — "Politicians shouldn’t mess with churches or farmers, and this is a church full of farmers,” says Janey Burke of Roscoe's Champion Baptist Church, whose congregation can be counted among those outraged by Sharyland Utilities' bills.

Cruz Bets on Tradition to Upend Trump in Iowa, by Patrick Svitek — Facing a nasty fight to the finish in Iowa with Donald Trump, Ted Cruz is betting big that the best way to beat a nontraditional opponent is with tradition, going places Trump won't while building a superior get-out-the-vote operation.

Ellis on Senate Ballot, But Wants Commissioner's Seat, by Jamie Lovegrove — State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, will remain on the primary ballot for re-election in Senate District 13, despite his plan to seek the Harris County Commissioner's seat left open when Commissioner El Franco Lee died on Jan. 3.

Texas Wesleyan Opts Out of Campus Carry, by Matthew Watkins — Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth announced Friday that it will opt out of the state's new campus carry law, making it the 21st private college to decide to continue to ban guns.

Uncertainty Continues to Dog Houston Debate, by Patrick Svitek — The upcoming GOP presidential debate in Houston has become a headache for Texas Republicans, who have witnessed it go through one shakeup after another.

Cruz, Trump Trade Attack Ads as Feud Intensifies, by Patrick Svitek — Donald Trump and Ted Cruz are trading their first attack ads in the GOP presidential race as their rivalry reaches a new level of intensity.

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The Day Ahead

•    The joint Health & Human Services Transition Oversight Committee meets at 1:30 p.m. in the Capitol extension to hear invited testimony about the reorganization of five existing agencies into one.

Elsewhere

Ted Cruz seeks to reignite Big Mo in Iowa, with Glenn Beck by his side, Austin American-Statesman

Cruz, Trump face crucible in Iowa — but so does GOP, The Dallas Morning News

Daily fantasy sports in Texas: Don’t bet against it, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Chasnoff: Judson injects religion into race against Straus, San Antonio Express-News

At 18, Ted Cruz joked about goals of 'world domination', The Dallas Morning News

Supreme Court arguments key to Cruz's rise, Houston Chronicle

Garcia: Uresti brothers split on Planned Parenthood funding issue, San Antonio Express-News

Ken Paxton appeal to stretch into spring, if not longer, Austin American-Statesman

Who is holding the signs in Iowa that say Ted Cruz likes Nickelback?, The Washington Post 

Quote to Note

"If Donald Trump wins, it's going to be a snowball to hell.”

— Conservative radio host Glenn Beck, urging Iowans in his endorsement of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz to stop billionaire Donald Trump's path to the Republican nomination Saturday in Iowa.

Today in TribTalk

There’s no efficiency in Texas public school finance litigation, by John Colyandro and Russell Withers — The Texas Supreme Court has treated the constitutional requirement for an “efficient” system of public free school to mean that school districts must have “substantially equal access to similar revenue per pupil at similar levels of tax effort.” What does that mean, exactly? Even the court doesn’t know for sure. 

News From Home

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. Don’t know how the presidential primary delegate system works? The Texas Tribune’s Jay Root and KUT’s Ben Philpott explain how many delegates it takes to win a party nomination, how different states dole them out and everything in between.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    A Conversation on Health Care: Bending the Cost Curve on Jan. 28 at the UNT Health Science Center in Fort Worth

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

•    A Conversation with Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer on Feb. 4 at the Austin Club

•    A Conversation with Sen. José Menéndez on Feb. 11 at the Austin Club

•    The Ticket: A Live Recording and Democratic Primary Debate Watch Party on Feb. 11 at KUT Public Media Studios in Austin

•    A Conversation with Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr. and Rep. Jose Manuel Lozano on Feb. 25 at Texas A&M University-Kingsville

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on March 23 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    Symposium on Transportation on March 29 at Texas A&M University in College Station