The Big Conversation

A day out from the Texas GOP presidential primary and 11 other nominating contests in other states, the question for Ted Cruz is increasingly, “Can he break Donald Trump’s momentum?”

The Tribune’s Patrick Svitek was with the Texas senator during his appearances on Sunday in Oklahoma, which also holds primary elections tomorrow. Svitek captured the scene this way:

As he campaigned across the Sooner State on Sunday, Cruz sought to project strength, arguing that he is "running neck and neck with Donald Trump in states all across Super Tuesday" — a claim largely refuted by public polling.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

In any case, it is Trump who has the wind in his sails as he barrels toward Tuesday, when 11 mostly southern states are set to vote in what is being called the "SEC primary." The billionaire delivered a blow to Cruz on Sunday afternoon, when he unveiled the endorsement of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama, an immigration hardliner whom Cruz has described as a close ally. 

Svitek also reported this weekend on the growing importance of Cruz’s wife, Heidi, on the campaign trail in the lead up to the Texas primary.

“In the Lone Star State, Heidi Cruz's mission appears to be not so much changing minds as keeping them from changing,” Svitek wrote. “With Trump proving to be Ted Cruz's closest competition at home — tying him in at least one poll — she is barnstorming the state, spending Friday through Sunday visiting 10 cities and towns — a good number of them Cruz strongholds where he stands a chance of winning all of the delegates come Tuesday.”

Marco Rubio announced today the creation of a new veterans coalition, Texas Veterans for Marco, and the addition of current and former elected officials and Republican activists to his leadership team in the state.

“Among the more prominent names,” Svitek wrote, “are Norm Adams, founding director of Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse; Elizabeth Ames Coleman, former chair of the Texas Railroad Commission; and Ed Hubbard, president of the Greater Houston Pachyderm Club.”

The Florida senator’s push comes after an attention grabbing appearance in Dallas on Friday as he vies with Cruz to become the alternative to Trump.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Trib Must Reads

Bernie Sanders' Nuclear Waste Votes Divide Texas Activists, by Jamie Lovegrove — A Bernie Sanders-supported proposal from the late 1990s to dump Vermont nuclear waste in a small minority in West Texas has attracted renewed attention in the lead-up to Tuesday's primary.

Lloyd Doggett, Hillary Clinton's Newest Superdelegate, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin, will endorse former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the presidency, adding to her growing list of superdelegates in her campaign for the Democratic nomination.

Texas Case Could Define Extent of Abortion Limits, by Alexa Ura and Lauren Flannery — On Wednesday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the legal challenge to abortion restrictions passed by Texas lawmakers in 2013. The case may help clarify how far states can go in regulating the procedure.

Pressing Donald Trump for Tax Info, Ted Cruz Releases His Own, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz released new information about his personal income taxes on Saturday in a bid to ratchet up pressure on Donald Trump to do the same.

Thousands Turn Out For Bernie Sanders in Two Texas Stops, by Abby Livingston and Julián Aguilar — U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders' message of modern-day populism brought out thousands of Texans in Austin and Grand Prairie on Saturday, as he worked to bolster his support here in advance of Tuesday's primary.

Republican Primary Race Boosts Early Voting Turnout in Texas, by Jamie Lovegrove — With over a million Texans casting early votes in the 15 biggest counties ahead of Tuesday's primaries, voters are clearly engaged in the volatile presidential race, particularly on the Republican side.

Ben Carson Attracts a Big Crowd that Unloads on Cruz, by Abby Livingston — Republican Ben Carson attracted an overflow crowd in the Dallas area Saturday, and his supporters seem remarkably hostile to Ted Cruz, their own U.S. senator.

U.S. Citizen Jailed in Immigration Status Mistake, by Andy East — Unconvinced he was a U.S. citizen, the Dallas County Jail held Ricardo Garza for more than a month until he could prove his status to federal immigration authorities. This story is part of our "Bordering on Insecurity" series.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Texas Relying on Nonprofit Clinics for Zika Defense, by Edgar Walters — Access to preventive health care in heavily uninsured Texas is challenging for its poorest residents, so the state is relying on nonprofit community clinics to be the front line of public health defense.

DPS Investigating State Rep. Dawnna Dukes' "Concerns”, by Terri Langford — State Rep. Dawnna Dukes has asked the Texas Department of Public Safety for an investigation, the agency confirmed late Friday. Exactly what it will focus on is not clear.

Birth Certificates To Determine Student-Athletes' Gender, by Kiah Collier — Beginning Aug. 1, birth certificates will be the official determinant of a high school student-athlete’s gender in Texas — a policy transgender advocates describe as exclusionary and outdated.

Cruz Super PACs Make Late Push in Super Tuesday States, by Patrick Svitek — The main super PACs supporting Ted Cruz are making a late push to give him a boost before of Super Tuesday, launching a multimillion-dollar ad buy aimed at the mostly Southern states that are set to vote March 1.

Chris Christie Endorses Donald Trump At Fort Worth Rally, by Abby Livingston — Real estate magnate Donald Trump chose Cowtown as his site to announce perhaps the most high-profile endorsement of his campaign, the support of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

In Dallas, Rubio Eviscerates "Con Artist" Trump, by Patrick Svitek — In Dallas, Marco Rubio on Friday unleashed a full-frontal assault against Donald Trump, blasting him as a "con artist" who is hijacking the conservative movement and mercilessly mocking Trump's alpha-male status.

With Chaplain, Texas Agriculture Chief Brings Faith to Work, by Jim Malewitz — Since naming an official volunteer chaplain at his agency, Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller has reserved a place for Christianity in the Stephen F. Austin building, and invited his employees to join.

The Day Ahead

•    Ahead of tomorrow’s primaries, former President Bill Clinton will make three stops across the state to campaign for Hillary Clinton. The former president will make his first stop at the Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston at 8 p.m. Then he flies to Fort Worth for an event at noon at the Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus. Clinton will end his day in San Antonio with an event at the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Center Theater at 4 p.m.

Elsewhere

Cruz faces do or die in Texas, Houston Chronicle

UT regents award executives hefty bonuses — six figures, for some, Austin American-Statesman

Clinton-Sanders clash pits classic, innovative campaign tactics, San Antonio Express-News

Lawsuit alleges Houston police condone lethal force by officers, Houston Chronicle

Clinton won’t face delegate debacle in Texas again, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Analysis: One group, and one donor, give large share of money in push to move Texas House to the right, The Dallas Morning News

Rubio makes misstep about oil exports during Midland visit, Midland Reporter-Telegram

Fikac: Rick Perry’s back with a swagger, San Antonio Express-News

That Time Ted Cruz Submitted a Supreme Court Brief Citing … Ted Cruz, Politico

As Supreme Court’s review of Texas abortion law looms, question arises, San Antonio Express-News 

Quote to Note

"She could run for office in her own right, quite frankly.”

— Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, suggesting that Heidi Cruz, Sen. Ted Cruz’s wife, may have the skills to run for political office

Today in TribTalk

Armed with reason, we're fighting against guns on Texas campuses, by Lisa L. Moore and Matthew Valentine — As gun rights advocates across the country force guns into academia, academics will feel compelled to bring scholarship to the gun debate.

News From Home

Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. We check in with conservative Hispanic activist Temo Muniz to see how he feels about the Republican primaries. And pollster Jim Henson tells us what's brewing ahead of Super Tuesday.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    Live Post-Primary TribCast on March 2 at the Austin Club

•    Protecting Houston Before the Next Big Storm on March 3 at San Jacinto College Maritime Technology and Training Center in La Porte.

•    A Conversation with Sid Miller, Texas Agriculture Commissioner on March 10 at the Austin Club

•    How High is the Water? A Data Visualization Party on March 13 at Umbel Corp

•    A Conversation with Reps. Craig Goldman, Stephanie Klick and Ramon Romero Jr. on March 29 at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth.

•    A Conversation with Sen. Carlos Uresti and Rep. Poncho Nevárez on April 13 at Sul Ross State University in Alpine

•    A Symposium on the Texas Economy on April 29 at the University of Houston