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Former GOP Leaders Predict Cultural Shift With Tea Party

With tea party activists set to rally nationwide Sunday in coordination with their second annual march on Washington, former Republican Party leaders said they believe tea-party-endorsed candidates will create a culture shift in the Capitol if they are elected.

Former Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott (Miss.) and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (Texas) told Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” that the candidates are mavericks, just as they were when they were first elected in the House. Lott served in the House from 1973 until 1989, before serving three terms in the Senate, and Armey was in the House from 1985 until 2003.

“These are independent-minded people that really have no particular appreciation for the performance of either party for the last several years,” Armey said.

Armey said he believes the candidates, if elected, will be similar to the Republican class of 1992 that ushered in a cultural shift in Washington.

Lott said he believes the tea party conservatives “want to get something done.”

“I do think the leadership has got to learn very quickly to work with them and to turn it into positive energy,” Lott said.

Lott said that the current “culture is a problem” for passing legislation. He noted that Democratic President Bill Clinton worked with a Republican Congress when Lott was in the Senate to pass a welfare overhaul, balanced budgets and other legislation. “We got a lot of things done,” Lott said.

While tea-party-endorsed candidates in Kentucky, Nevada and Colorado are in tight races, Lott and Armey said they believe the candidates will survive. Lott pointed to states such as Wisconsin and California, where Republicans are surging in the Senate races against longtime Democratic incumbents.

Armey said he believes tea party conservatives are ushering in a new culture that is here to stay.

“It can survive, and this time it will survive with a duration that we did not have before,” Armey said.

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