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Top Morning Stories 1/2/12: Down to the Wire in Iowa, Fayette Coal Debate, Cowboys Lose

Ron Paul leaving a venue in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Dec. 30, 2011, after delivering a campaign speech.
Photo by Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune
Ron Paul leaving a venue in Sioux Center, Iowa, on Dec. 30, 2011, after delivering a campaign speech.

Crunch Time In Iowa

Today is the last full day of campaigning by the candidates in Iowa before Republicans choose their candidates in tomorrow’s presidential caucuses. Governor Rick Perry’s family joined the tour over the weekend, along with about 350 volunteers from Texas. KUT’s Ben Philpott, traveling with the governor, says crowds are larger at Perry events and more reporters are showing up.

But it’s likely another Texan will dominate media attention after Tuesday night. Texas Congressman Ron Paul of Lake Jackson was in a statistical dead heat with former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in the closely watched Des Moines Registerpoll of likely Republican caucus goers. Former Pennsylvania Governor Rick Santorum is polling in third place. Perry is tied for fourth with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Another more recent poll released yesterday shows Perry in fifth place.  The new numbers prompted the New York Times columnist Nate Silver to update his projections for the Iowa caucuses.

So what will 2012 hold for Rick Perry? That’s a huge question being tackled this morning by the team of journalists at our political reporting partners the Texas Tribune.

Coal Controversy Fuels Fayette Debate

One of biggest local policy debates of 2012 is sure to be the fate of the coal-fired Fayette power plant, which supplies Austin with a significant chunk of its energy. But Mayor Lee Leffingwell wants to wean the city off coal, and as the Austin American-Statesman reports, that decision could have major consequences for energy users.

The city would have to persuade the LCRA to restructure its contract so that Austin Energy would become the sole owner of one of the stacks. State regulators would probably also have to sign off, amid concerns the state might lack sufficient generating capacity. And Austin would have to absorb the cost of replacing its largest source of power, an amount that would probably be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more.

 Cowboys Lose to Giants

The New York Giants clobbered Dallas 31-14 last night, preventing the Cowboys from making it into the NFL playoffs. As Fort Worth Star Telegram columnist Gil Lebreton points out, Sunday’s defeat means the Cowboys still only have one playoff victory since 1996.

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.