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The Brief: Analyzing Ted Cruz's Hail Mary Veep Play

Ted Cruz veered away from the standard presidential campaign playbook on Wednesday with his announcement of a vice presidential pick.

Republican U.S. presidential candidate Cruz is joined by former Republican candidate Fiorina at press conference after town …

The Big Conversation

Ted Cruz veered away from the standard presidential campaign playbook on Wednesday with his announcement of a vice presidential pick as his own prospects of snagging the nomination are fading after five crushing defeats to Donald Trump this week.

The move had many analysts calling the choice of former presidential contender Carly Fiorina a Hail Mary play, a desperation heave intended to somehow halt Trump's path to the nomination.

The Tribune's Abby Livingston and Patrick Svitek wrote:

The Fiorina pick does two immediate things for Cruz. Most immediately, it helps change the subject from the blowout Trump dealt him Tuesday night in five East Coast states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. (Cruz took a similar tack after a disappointing finish in the Nevada caucuses on Feb. 23: The next day, his campaign announced the endorsement of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.)

Additionally, Fiorina's appearances on the campaign trail will likely now pick up more attention and enthusiasm, helping renew the Cruz's campaign's flagging momentum.

The Tribune's Madlin Mekelburg, meanwhile, addresses in a separate story Fiorina's Texas roots, which were mentioned prominently in Wednesday's announcement.

She wrote, "Fiorina left Texas when she was two, and highlighted her California roots during her own brief bid for the nomination. She now lives in Virginia, but Cruz focused on her state of birth during his announcement on Wednesday. 'Born in Texas,' Cruz said of Fiorina's biography. 'The very first thing I liked about her.'"

Mekelburg added, "For Cruz and Fiorina, the significance of their shared Texas backgrounds is not a constitutional question, but one of political value. (UT government professor Bruce) Buchanan said rather than highlighting their ties to a particular state, Cruz and Fiorina would be wise to keep their focus on the big picture."

Other political observers had history on their minds when parsing Cruz's move, finding a parallel with Ronald Reagan's decision to make an early vice presidential pick while trailing Gerald Ford for the nomination in 1976.

The Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff wrote, "Craig Shirley, a Reagan biographer, said Reagan announced his vice presidential pick because CBS News was poised to run a story that would have showed conclusively that Ford would win at the convention. Reagan’s surprise announcement gave his campaign a burst of excitement — and CBS held the story. 'It worked brilliantly to kill the CBS story, which kept Reagan’s campaign alive until Kansas City,' Shirley said."

Reagan, of course, lost the nomination. And complicating the matter for Cruz is that Reagan was much closer to winning the nomination than Cruz is now.

“Is it a Hail Mary pass? Sure it is, of course it is,” Shirley told Woodruff. “But, you know what, it’s the fourth quarter. And when you’re down by two or three touchdowns in the fourth quarter, you have to start throwing the ball long. Sometimes it works.”

Disclosure: The University of Texas at Austin has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here. 

Trib Must Reads

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Lawmakers to Consider Fetal Tissue Laws, by Edgar Walters — Texas lawmakers will meet Thursday to examine policies on how human fetal tissue can be used for scientific research.

Bernie Tiede Attorneys Say They'll Seek New Trial, by Johnathan Silver — After being sentenced to life in prison a second time, convicted murderer Bernie Tiede wants another do-over. An East Texas jury sentenced Tiede to 99 years or life in prison in the killing of wealthy Carthage widow Marjorie Nugent.

Dallas Business Leaders Back Hunt In Oncor Bid, by Jim Malewitz — A smorgasbord of big-name Dallasites — including a Hall-of-Fame Dallas Cowboy quarterback — is supporting a Ray L. Hunt-led investment group’s request that Texas regulators reopen proceedings in its bid to buy the state’s largest electric utility.

Bathroom Law Battle Begins to Take Hold in Texas, by Patrick Svitek — Activists, lawmakers and state leaders are eyeing Texas as the next battleground in what has become an explosive national debate: the right of transgender people to decide which bathroom they use.

It's Official: A&M Allowing Guns in Classrooms and Dorms, by Matthew Watkins — This fall, guns will be allowed in classrooms and most dorms at Texas A&M University and other A&M System schools. Faculty will only be allowed to ban them in their offices if they show a special need.

Uber Preparing to Leave Houston if City Keeps Existing Rules, by Madlin Mekelburg — Uber announced Wednesday the company plans to cease operations in Houston if the city council does not repeal its existing regulations relating to vehicle-for-hire companies.

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The Day Ahead

•    Several House committees hold hearings in the Capitol extension today to address interim charges — the Economic & Small Business Development subcommittee on Small Business [E2.010], where incentives to grow small businesses will be examined; the select committee on mental health [E2.016]; and State Affairs [E2.028], where lawmakers will review policies for acquiring human fetal tissue for medical and scientific purposes. A select committee set up to study emerging issues in Texas law enforcement will hold an interim hearing at South Padre Island.

•    And on the Senate side, that chamber's Economic & Small Business Development and Energy Resources committees hold a joint hearing in the Capitol extension to study the impacts of the declining price of oil on the economy and the Texas budget [E1.030].

•    State Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, holds a two-day summit beginning today at the Capitol on electric grid security and the dangers posed by electromagnetic pulse (EMP), geomagnetic solar storms, and cyber attacks.

Elsewhere

5 educators arrested in EPISD cheating scheme, El Paso Times

Text message says staffer’s raise covered errands for Rep. Dawnna Dukes, Austin American-Statesman

T. Boone Pickens says America’s oil industry is ‘dead in the water’, The Washington Post

Once-fugitive real estate heir’s plea deal approved, The Associated Press

TAD official apologizes for property tax software problems, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

STAAR test question with no right answer among dozens of complaints as Texas school chiefs say results can’t be trusted, The Dallas Morning News

Runoff candidates face off during forum, The Monitor

Texan running for GOP leadership spot, The Hill

Future of San Antonio-Austin passenger rail could hinge on local planning group, San Antonio Express-News

SpaceX Aims to Send 'Red Dragon' Capsule to Mars in 2018, The Associated Press

Quote to Note

"Texans will smile. This is what we do. But the rest of the country looks at Texas with a mix of puzzlement and disdain when we do that kind of stuff."

— Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University, to the Tribune on Ted Cruz playing up Carly Fiorina's Texas roots while announcing her as his vice presidential pick should he win the GOP presidential nomination

Today in TribTalk

Texas’ strong economic growth is a cause — and effect — of immigration, by Ike Brannon — No other region of the country is growing as smartly as Texas these days, and that growth is both the draw and the outcome of the large presence of immigrants in the state.

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Trib Events for the Calendar

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

•    The Texas Tribune's third Texas-centric Trivia Night on May 1 at The Highball in Austin

•    A Conversation on Mental Health Matters on May 10 at KLRU Studio 6A in Austin

•    The Texas Tribune Festival on Sept. 23-25 at the University of Texas at Austin

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