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The Brief: Cruz Campaign Settles in for Long Slog to Convention

Ted Cruz no longer has to worry about one rival for the GOP presidential nomination — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — but he's now forced to reckon with another one.

Podium at the Redneck Country Club in Stafford, Texas Mar. 1, 2016

The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz no longer has to worry about one rival for the GOP presidential nomination — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio — but he's now forced to reckon with another one.

That would be Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who took the primary on Tuesday in his home state. That denied billionaire front-runner Donald Trump a victory in the key state. Trump otherwise had a good night, winning outright in three states and widening his delegate lead over Cruz.

“The night was sort of the worst of all worlds for [Cruz] in that he couldn’t point to a Missouri, couldn’t point to an Illinois, couldn’t point to a North Carolina, couldn’t point to one or two states and say, ‘Look, I can compete with Donald Trump and win.’ So it became Kasich’s night,” Russ Schriefer, a Republican strategist, told Dan Balz and Katie Zezima of The Washington Post.

The New York Times' Matt Flegenheimer and Thomas Kaplan, meanwhile, wrote that any new rivalry between Cruz and Kasich isn't rooted in previous animosity.

"While Mr. Cruz, of Texas, has moved to consolidate support among evangelical and Tea Party voters, Mr. Kasich has made a play for party moderates," Flegenheimer and Kaplan wrote, "outlasting establishment rivals like Jeb Bush, Chris Christie and Mr. Rubio, who dropped out Tuesday after losing his home state."

"Now, it seems, Mr. Cruz and Mr. Kasich will get to know each other a bit better. And their opening gambits were to argue that the other has no chance of becoming president."

While Cruz tries to maneuver Kasich out of the race in order to set up a one-on-one encounter with Trump, he must also reckon with his fellow senators, to whom he might turn to consolidate the anti-Trump forces.

Those senators, wrote Politico's Burgess Everett and Seung Min Kim, "represent a cornerstone of the GOP establishment with which Cruz must at the very least reach a cease-fire to have any hope of becoming the consensus anti-Trump candidate."

"Cruz’s relationship with his colleagues is now a central paradox of his campaign: He’s openly arguing for the party to rally behind him, but Republican senators are plainly wary of going anywhere near him. Those who feel burned by Cruz in the past say he’ll come to them only if he decides it’s in his self-interest."

The Tribune's Patrick Svitek wrote that all of these factors add up to one seemingly inescapable conclusion: any chance that Cruz would move quickly and decisively to the nomination are over. Instead, the Cruz campaign is now looking ahead to nominating contests in which only registered Republicans can take part as part of preparation for a contested convention.

"Cruz's campaign, which turns 1 year old in a week, is now gearing up — if it wasn't before — for a long slog to the nomination that could end on the convention floor in Cleveland in July. That possibility was only made more likely Tuesday, when billionaire Donald Trump won three out of five contests as U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida dropped out of the race after losing his home state to Trump."

Trib Must Reads

At Texas Colleges, Football Revenue Props Up Other Sports, by Matthew Watkins — The NCAA men's basketball tournament may have the nation's attention now, but football is the true cash cow in Texas college sports, according to records reviewed as part of the Tribune's Ballpark Figures project.

Timeline: Attorney General Ken Paxton's Legal Saga, by Morgan Smith and Lauren Flannery — Looking for a handy way to keep up with the legal and political drama surrounding Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton? We've got you covered.

Inmate Declared Innocent is Still in Texas Prison, by Johnathan Silver — Although a Dallas County district judge decided he was innocent eight years ago, Ben Spencer remains behind bars for a 1987 aggravated robbery he insists he did not commit.

Congressmen Want Investigation of Houston Poll Miscues, by Alexa Ura — Two Houston congressmen are asking the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate whether unequal distribution of voting machines and polling locations in Harris County disenfranchised minority voters during the March 1 primary election.

Cruz Wins Support of Former Rubio Backers in Texas, by Patrick Svitek — With Marco Rubio out of the race for the White House, two of his top backers in Texas are throwing their support to Ted Cruz.

Texas Still Second to Last in Voter Turnout for Primaries, by Jolie McCullough — After a new round of states voted Tuesday, Texas still had the second lowest voting-age participation rate of all that have held both Democratic and Republican primaries so far, behind only Louisiana.

In Texas, Obama's Nominee May Draw Attention for EPA Rulings, by Jordan Rudner — D.C. Circuit Chief Judge Merrick Garland has a history with cases involving the Environmental Protection Agency, which Texas has sued 24 times since Obama took office.

The Day Ahead

•    The House Defense & Veterans' Affairs Committee meets at 1 p.m. in the Capitol Extension to take invited testimony.


Republican debate canceled after Trump pulls out, Politico

Republicans Enter a Shadow Campaign to Sew Up Delegates, The New York Times

With Rubio out, Nikki Haley backs Ted Cruz for president, The Dallas Morning News

Cruz, Kasich reveal subtle split over Obama’s Supreme Court pick, Politico

Ex-law clerk, Austin lawyer praises Supreme Court nominee Garland, Austin American-Statesman

Ken Starr: Garland a 'very wise choice', The Hill

Former Dallas judge among Obama’s nominees for federal bench, The Dallas Morning News

Former astronaut rebuffs Smith on climate change, San Antonio Express-News

Report says Houston among areas at highest Zika transmission risk, Houston Chronicle

Small town bands together in face of rising floodwaters, Houston Chronicle

Beyond Flint: Excessive lead levels found in almost 2,000 water systems across all 50 states, USA Today

Quote to Note

“I cannot support Donald Trump in any way, shape or fashion and will not vote for him regardless of whether he’s the nominee, but I could vote for Cruz ... I have too much integrity, I have too much love for this country, and I have too much knowledge of our history to even consider voting for a Donald Trump.”

— Former Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, saying he too will now support Ted Cruz in hopes of stopping Trump from winning the nomination.

Today in TribTalk

Universities are better off hiring smart, not big, by Matthew Cooper — While any new allocation of state resources for higher education is a welcome departure from the broad erosion of financial support for public universities across the nation, this initiative misses the point. It incentivizes outsized investments in relatively few faculty without addressing the underlying structural causes of institutional mediocrity.

News From Home

•    The Texas Tribune today launches “Ballpark Figures,” an app that offers a detailed look at the finances of the eight public Texas universities that play in the top level of college football. We will also have a story today on the reliance of university athletic departments on college football. Tomorrow, we will have a story on the increased reliance on student fees at several college athletic departments.

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

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