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August 26, 2012

Texas delegates have quieter roles at 2012 Republican convention

But rising star and U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz will speak Tuesday

With one eye on a big wind and another on what they hope will be a big win come November, more than 700 Texas Republicans and statewide elected officials began making their way to Tampa during the weekend for the party's quadrennial national convention.

While national party officials have acceded to the whims of Tropical Storm Isaac by postponing official activities until Tuesday, party delegates are scheduled to nominate their standard-bearers, showcase their candidates and hear from a rising Texas star, U.S. Senate nominee Ted Cruz.

They won't hear from Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who lost to Cruz in last month's GOP runoff and will not be attending, or from one of the state's shooting stars, Gov. Rick Perry, whose presidential candidacy shined brightly for a season and then precipitously dimmed.

Perry, who has left the door open to run for a fourth full term as governor and is considering another White House bid in a future election, is likely to spend much of his time with the delegation as chairman.

The governor plans to focus on promoting the Romney-Ryan ticket and reconnecting with people he met on the presidential campaign trail, said spokeswoman Catherine Frazier.

"He has told Mitt Romney that he will do whatever he asks of him to help with the campaign effort," Frazier said.

Perry, of course, envisioned a different convention role for himself when he launched his presidential campaign a year ago. Had he been successful, the Lone Star State would have shined more brightly as well.

"We don't have quite the muscle we had in the past," said delegate Butch Davis, of Houston, "so now we operate more behind the scenes."

Davis, a materials specialist with Williams gas pipelines, serves on the Rules Committee.

Among other elected Texans scheduled to attend are Attorney General Greg Abbott, state Comptroller Susan Combs, Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples, U.S. Rep. Francisco "Quico" Canseco and state Sen. Dan Patrick, some of whom are angling for other statewide offices.

Cruz, a favorite of the tea party rank-and-file and the conservative intelligentsia, was scheduled to speak tonight, but the impending storm forced postponement of the day's events to Tuesday.

"I believe Ted Cruz's speech will be a huge boost to our grassroots, conservative base," said Jared Woodfill, the Harris County Republican Party chairman, who will be attending the convention. "Ted is now a national, conservative leader. He and Paul Ryan have energized grassroots, conservative voters in Texas and around the country."

The Senate nominee is playing an additional role as well, said Jerry Polinard, a political scientist at the University of Texas-Pan American. "Cruz is there to give a Latino face to the party ... like [Florida U.S. Sen.] Marco Rubio. They'll be displayed quite a bit, both onstage and offstage, at the convention."

"Cruz is a star, but it is funny that he should be the featured guy," said David Woodard, a Clemson University political scientist. "This could be called the 'non-Bush' convention, since the family is almost invisible here. Here is a family that has won the presidency three times ... but aside from Jeb Bush, they aren't being featured. Texas is going to be remembered by a guy who hasn't won the Senate seat yet, when they have two living presidents and such previous candidates as Phil Gramm and Rick Perry. I think it is strange."

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