The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz had an eventful weekend, winning a pair of Republican presidential caucuses in Kansas and Maine on Saturday to bolster his argument that the field should narrow to him and front-runner Donald Trump.

Cruz lost contests in Kentucky and Louisiana to Trump on Saturday and in Puerto Rico to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio on Sunday.

The Tribune’s Patrick Svitek reported that Cruz won the most delegates on Saturday, “narrowing Trump's lead in the overall hunt at a time when the GOP is desperately searching for a way to stop the billionaire.”

Cruz also showed late momentum in all four Saturday contests, something that the Cruz camp eagerly played up afterward.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Svitek wrote:

Cruz's campaign was particularly pleased with its performance in Kansas, where Cruz won with a 25-point margin after internal numbers had suggested a much closer race.

... 

Cruz's campaign was expecting to finish a distant second in Louisiana and Maine. Kentucky, which Cruz did not even bother visiting in the lead-up to Saturday, "seemed likely out of reach," according to one campaign official who partly attributed the apparent late break to Cruz's performance Thursday at the Republican debate in Detroit.

Cruz ended up winning Maine by 13 points and trailing Trump in Kentucky and Louisiana by four points each. In Louisiana specifically, there were signs of a swing toward Cruz between early voting and Election Day.

And while Cruz has been calling on Rubio to clear the field, Trump joined in while celebrating his victories Saturday night.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

"I would love to take on Ted one-on-one because that would be so much fun, because he can't win New York, he can't win Pennsylvania, he can't win California," Trump said. "I want Ted one-on-one, OK?"

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: Endorsements, Loyalties — and Getting Things Done, by Ross Ramsey — Endorsements seem harmless enough, but several state senators will have to eat some crow to get their legislation passed next year. They endorsed challengers to fellow legislators — and lost.

Juvenile Offenders Find Rehabilitation Through Work, by Johnathan Silver — The Texas Juvenile Justice Department has developed a pilot program that places a handful of young offenders in on- and off-facility jobs if they have already earned a high school diploma or GED.

Cruz Competes in Five States Over The Weekend, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz has an opportunity to cut into real estate magnate Donald Trump's lead in the GOP presidential contest in a handful of GOP presidential contests Saturday and Sunday.

Death Row Inmate Who Killed Daughter Pursues Clemency, by Johnathan Silver — After losing his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court this week, Robert Roberson III's last hope to escape his June 21 execution date is the state Board of Pardons and Parole.

Head of Family and Protective Services Stepping Down, by Edgar Walters — Texas Department of Family and Protective Services Commissioner John Specia announced Friday he would retire from the agency on May 31.

Cruz Keeps Hammering Trump, Clinton, by Abby Livingston —Speaking to a gathering of the nation's most passionate conservatives, U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz unloaded anew on the front-runners for the presidency from both parties.

North Carolina Sending Official to Texas Over Toll Road Bankruptcy, by Jamie Lovegrove — In the wake of a recent bankruptcy filing from a private company that operates a Texas toll road, North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory has dispatched his top transportation official to Texas as his state begins work on a similar project.

The Texas Tribune thanks its sponsors. Become one.

Senate Republican Leaders Express Concern Over Tuition Hikes, by Matthew Watkins — Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and Senate Higher Education Committee Chairman Kel Seliger expressed frustration Friday with Texas university presidents over recent decisions to raise tuition again this year.

Ted Cruz Counts on Rivals' Home-State Struggles, by Patrick Svitek — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz's campaign is hoping that March 15 will be a day of reckoning for Republican presidential rivals John Kasich and Marco Rubio, whose respective home states of Ohio and Florida head to the polls then.

The Day Ahead

•    Railroad Commissioners David PorterChristi Craddick and Ryan Sitton provide an agency update to the House Energy Resources Committee at its 1 p.m. meeting in the Capitol extension. The committee is studying enforcement policies at the state agency that has the job of overseeing Texas' oil and gas industry.

Elsewhere

Nancy 'indispensable' to Reagan's success, Baker says, Houston Chronicle

Austin police complete internal investigation in David Joseph shooting, Austin American-Statesman 

Toll road company’s future uncertain as bankruptcy process begins, San Antonio Express-News

Rigorous Texas student test was decades in the making, Austin American-Statesman 

Cruz, Trump seek two-man fight to the finish, Politico

Outsiders rending Republican Party in Texas too, Houston Chronicle

Abbott’s new task force to assess college affordability, workforce developmentThe Dallas Morning News

Testy debate suggests Clinton and Sanders battle will continue, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Rep. Craddick reviews record career, lays plans for 2017, Odessa American

Questions raised as border cameras multiply, El Paso Times 

Quote to Note

“I just wanted to mention, Hillary, I could be a real asset to you. I could show you how to use Snapchat. That’s the app that automatically deletes all your messages.”

— Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, joking at the Gridiron Club and Foundation spring dinner about why he should be Hillary Clinton’s vice president over his brother, Housing Secretary Julián Castro

Today in TribTalk

Texas, abortion and the power of the Supreme Court, by Joshua Wilson — Whole Woman's Health v Hellerstedt could pull the U.S. Supreme Court into a new, prolonged fight over the future of abortion politics, raise the stakes in filling Justice Antonin Scalia's seat and increase the political attention given to the Court — all outcomes that the institution has tried to avoid.

News From Home

•    Tune in for the latest episode of The Ticket, a co-production of the Tribune and KUT. The Tribune’s Jay Root and KUT’s Ben Philpott give their takes on the Super Tuesday elections, and they hear from WNYC’s Matt Katz about Donald Trump’s newest supporter — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.

•    The latest episode of Reveal looks at the worst-case scenario facing the Houston area if a major hurricane hit it in the right spot. This episode is a collaboration between The Texas Tribune, ProPublica and Reveal.

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    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