The Big Conversation

A multimillion dollar effort by establishment elements in the GOP to stop the candidacy of billionaire Donald Trump could end up benefiting Ted Cruz.

The Stop Trump movement is picking up steam ahead of Tuesday's pivotal presidential primary contests in Florida and Ohio. The Houston Chronicle's Kevin Diaz reported that more than $20 million is being spent on ads and other media "by a collection of conservative groups orchestrating a barrage of attacks to weaken GOP front-runner Donald Trump — who happens to be Cruz's main impediment to the nomination."

Diaz added, "Though some of the prosperous Republican donors in the Stop Trump movement are hardly friends of Cruz, he has become the default alternative to the maverick billionaire whom some see as an existential threat to the party."

The Cruz campaign, meanwhile, is ratcheting up its use of data analytics to help guide its placement of events as it hunts delegates in states like North Carolina, Illinois and Missouri, according to Politico's Katie Glueck.

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"The Texas senator’s operation is now making decisions based on daily and sometimes hourly data about where he stands to pick up the most delegates in the next round of voting," Glueck wrote, "and only then publicly announcing his plans, typically with 24 hours’ notice or less."

“It’s all built on the goal of achieving the highest number of delegates coming out of each state,” a Cruz source told Politico. “What we do is not driven by winning states; it’s about winning delegates.”

Trib Must Reads

Analysis: Low Voter Turnout in Texas Gets Obama's Attention, by Ross Ramsey — Perhaps it’s not in the best interests of the people now in office in Texas — whatever their party labels — to change the electoral setup that put them in office.

Voices from the Border: Illegal Crossings and Deportations, by Julián Aguilar, Jay Root and Todd Wiseman — Every month, busloads of deported undocumented immigrants arrive at the southern border, returning to Mexico after serving prison time in the United States. Meanwhile, other migrants prepare to attempt illegal border crossings. This story is part of our "Bordering on Insecurity" series.

Cruz Picks Up Delegates Before Winner-Take-All Contests, by Patrick Svitek — Ted Cruz is continuing to pick up delegates in the lead-up to the high-stakes nominating contests Tuesday that could knock two of his Republican rivals out of the race for the White House.

Obama Mocks GOP For Giving Rise to Trump, by Patrick Svitek — Weighing in on the controversial candidacy of Donald Trump, President Obama ridiculed the so-called "Republican establishment" for being "shocked" by the billionaire's rise to presidential frontrunner.

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Obama: Texas Leaders "Aren't Interested" in Higher Voter Turnout, by Edgar Walters — Texas’ Republican leadership has stifled voter turnout, and the public sector should do more to encourage online voting and other civic engagement, President Barack Obama said in an interview Friday with Tribune CEO and Editor-in-Chief Evan Smith.

In Florida, Cruz Calls Trump an Insider, "Weak" on Terrorism, by Abby Livingston — U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz ratcheted up his criticisms Friday of Donald Trump during an event at an evangelical church in Orlando, painting the real estate mogul as an active participant in what Cruz has long labeled the "D.C. cartel."

Elsewhere

In year of outsider, it’s Cruz the conservative vs. Trump the populist, Austin American-Statesman

At Austin event, Mark Cuban calls Ted Cruz ‘worst politician in Texas’, The Dallas Morning News

South Texas a hotbed of public corruption, San Antonio Express-News

SXSW Addresses Online Harassment of Women in Gaming, The New York Times

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s securities fraud case could take years to resolve, The Dallas Morning News

Many State Legislatures Exempt Themselves From Record Laws, The Associated Press

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Conviction Integrity Units Expand Beyond Texas Roots, Medill News Service

A hometown hospital's fight gets ugly in insurance negotiations, Houston Chronicle

HCC scaling back Qatar agreement, Houston Chronicle

Mood turns black as oil as a boom turns bust, San Antonio Express-News

Eagle Ford Shale ranchers sue Chesapeake Energy over royalty payments, San Antonio Express-News

Quote to Note

“If Donald Trump is elected, Mrs. Trump will be the first first lady that has ever posed nude, the first first lady that’s the third wife, and the first foreign-born first lady in this century.”

— Austin lobbyist Andrea McWilliams, who kicked up some controversy with remarks on Fox News Business about Donald Trump's wife, Melania

Today in TribTalk

Vehicle safety inspections are more than just a chore — they're a tax, by Don Huffines — The time and money Texans expend on state-mandated inspection of passenger vehicles would be justifiable if they meant safer roads for us and our families. Unfortunately, they do not.

Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    The Price of Admission: A Conversation on the Top 10 Percent Rule on March 31 at Austin Community College Highland Campus

•    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