The Big Conversation

In five states today, voters go to the polls in a set of nominating contests that could prove pivotal in winnowing the GOP's presidential field to a final twosome.

For Ted Cruz, the Texas senator trailing billionaire Donald Trump in the delegate count, he's watching carefully how the front-runner does today in the states of Florida and Ohio.

That's because those contests take place in the home states of the other two contenders for the GOP nomination — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. The Dallas Morning News' Todd J. Gillman wrote that Trump taking out both Rubio and Kasich could deal mortal blows to both campaigns.

Such a result, Gillman wrote, "will set up the two-man contest for the Republican presidential nomination that Cruz has craved for months — but it also might pad Trump’s delegate lead so much that the Texan can’t capitalize."

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On the latter point, Gillman does the math, adding, "Cruz needs to win roughly 70 percent of all the remaining delegates to get at least 1,237 delegates, the number needed to be the nominee. Trump needs to win 60 percent. The numbers are likely to shift dramatically in Trump’s favor by Wednesday morning."

And while Cruz isn't favored to win any of the states holding nominating contests today, the campaign is working to pick up delegates where it can.

Politico's Katie Glueck reported that the Cruz campaign is making a last-minute investment of a half-million dollars for TV and digital ads to run in Ohio, Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina.

Narrowing the gap with Trump could help Cruz net delegates in Illinois, Missouri and North Carolina where delegates are awarded proportionally.

Glueck added, "The investment in Ohio — expected to be Cruz’s biggest additional outlay — could indicate that his campaign sees an opportunity to land a stronger-than-expected finish in that winner-take-all state, where Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich currently hold strong leads."

Trib Must Reads

Font on Texas Highway Signs Set for Another Shift, by Madlin Mekelburg — The Federal Highway Administration is no longer permitting states to use an experimental font called Clearview on highway signs. Texas, one of the typeface's earliest adopters, has used it on its new highway signs since 2004.

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Survey Captures Fear Level Among Texas Judges, by Johnathan Silver — A survey taken after Travis County state District Judge Julie Kocurek was shot last fall in the driveway of her Austin home found that hundreds of Texas judges have feared for their safety at least once in the last two years.

Analysis: Scant Evidence for Abbott's "Rampant" Voter Fraud, by Ross Ramsey — It's true that Texas has cases of voter fraud, but it's more a trickle than a flood. Gov. Greg Abbott says that voter fraud is "rampant," but the numbers don't seem to bear that out.

Abbott Rejects Obama Criticism of Texas Voter Turnout Efforts, by Jamie Lovegrove — "The fact is that voter fraud is rampant," Abbott said in response to President Barack Obama's suggestion last week that Texas leaders are uninterested in improving voter turnout.

Report: High Arsenic Levels in Many Texans' Water, by Kiah Collier — Tens of thousands of Texans live in places where the drinking water contains toxic levels of arsenic — a known carcinogen — and the state isn’t doing enough to discourage them from consuming it, according to a new report from an environmental group.

Texas Court Denies Request Tied to Austin's Uber Ordinance, by Madlin Mekelburg — The Texas Supreme Court denied a request Monday aiming to rewrite the ballot language for an upcoming referendum that will determine how the city of Austin regulates vehicle-for-hire companies like Uber and Lyft.

In Illinois, Cruz Paints Trump as a Machine Politician, by Patrick Svitek — Launching a daylong barnstorm of Illinois, U.S. Sen. Cruz equated Republican presidential opponent Donald Trump with the state's history of elected officials who have been accused of using their power for political gain.

Elsewhere

Ted Cruz finds new allies in GOP establishment he rails against, The Washington Post

No, Lakewood Church Pastor Joel Osteen didn't endorse Donald Trump for president, Houston Chronicle

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Former priest pleads not guilty to 1960 death of McAllen schoolteacher, The Monitor

Court lets Texas join suit alleging federal land overreach, The Associated Press

Galveston County sheriff faces federal lawsuit after inmate's death, Houston Chronicle

Texas sued over ‘motor-voter’ law compliance, Austin American-Statesman

Prosecutors: Rick Perry case has no bearing on Ken Paxton indictments, The Dallas Morning News

Davis proposes ‘new wave of feminist action’, San Antonio Express-News

Meet Chapter 313, Texas' Largest Corporate Welfare Program, Texas Observer

Aubrey McClendon Hit Wall at 78 Miles an Hour in Fatal Crash, Bloomberg

Documents: Austin police embracing wider use of license plate readers, Austin American-Statesman

Video appears to show police officer pepper-spraying motorcyclists, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Quote to Note

“What a bizarre world we’re in where reporters are forced to ask the question, ‘Should political campaign staffers physically assault reporters?’”

— GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, who said Monday that a campaign staffer grabbing a reporter would be a "fireable offense." Donald Trump's campaign manager was accused of doing that recently to a reporter for Breitbart News.

Today in TribTalk

The questions I didn’t get to ask POTUS, by Evan Smith — The only real regret I have after my interview of President Obama last week is that I didn't get to ask him more questions. Here is a list of other things I would have asked, along with my thoughts on why these were worth asking.

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