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He also defends Mr. Bush, who became a target of scorn among conservatives.

“I don’t give him kudos for TARP — the bailout of Wall Street and the car companies — but he deserves more credit,” Mr. DeLay said. “Unfortunately, it’s the Republican/conservatives that are trashing the real history of the Bush administration because they can advance their own political careers by trashing Republicans.”

Whether his fellow conservatives will judge that as arrogance, loyalty to the former president or his trademark plain-spokenness will be determined in part by how well a resurgent Mr. DeLay can make his case.