- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 14, 2002

Rep. Tom DeLay, elected yesterday as House majority leader, was an outspoken conservative on social and economic issues when he was majority whip. Whether he will remain so is of concern to some of his colleagues.

"I would expect a lot of pressure on Tom to be more tactful at times and perhaps he will be," said Rep. Mark Souder, Indiana Republican.

"I am worried that he will succumb to that pressure, but I also think you can't change Tom," he said. "Most of us don't want him to change."

"Everybody who supported him for majority leader knows full well that he is an outspoken conservative," Mr. Souder said. "And they know that expressing those conservative views publicly is important to the whole leadership team, from Speaker [J. Dennis] Hastert on down."

Several other House Republicans privately expressed concern that Mr. DeLay will acquiesce and end up toning down his conservatism.

But others said they expected him to resist.

"I don't think you'll see a huge metamorphosis," said Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican. "Tom is Tom. And that is good for us, since so many people in our party are conservative."

Some on the political right worry about Mr. DeLay for other reasons.

"DeLay, although a staunch conservative, has been calling all the shots and is building a political empire," confided a conservative leader outside of Congress. "He chooses leaders on the basis of whether they will be totally loyal to him."

Others see that as part of his strength.

As testimony to Mr. DeLay's ability to win over even the most liberal members of the Republican conference, a conservative DeLay colleague cited an incident involving Iowa Rep. Jim Leach, narrowly re-elected on Nov. 5.

Mr. Leach stood to say in a post-election House Republican conference meeting: "I haven't always been the best team player, but it was amazing to see how the team lined up behind me this time. I don't know exactly what Tom DeLay did, but I want to thank him."

One thing most Republicans seem to agree on: Mr. Delay, nicknamed "the Hammer" for his ability to herd Republican members behind measures supported by the leadership, will not become another Newt Gingrich.

Colleagues say that Mr. Gingrich also shouted at members who disagreed with him and took down their names for possible punishment later whereas Mr. DeLay shouts and forgets.

A successful Texas businessman, Mr. DeLay is not inclined to the theoretical didacticism displayed by Mr. Gingrich, a former college professor, as House speaker.

"For one thing, Tom's style is different from Newt's DeLay gets things done in the trenches, whereas Gingrich was a pontificator, framing things as sweeping issues and from an 'us vs. them' standpoint," said Republican strategist Ed Goeas. "I don't think his instinct is to go about and beat his chest, trying to frame the issues that way. So as majority leader, he will operate much the same way he did as whip piece by piece, person by person, issue by issue."

That is why, Mr. Goeas believes, Democrats have not succeeded in demonizing Mr. DeLay to the extent they did Mr. Gingrich.

"You take any Republican leader in the last decade at any level and he is probably the most underestimated politician and master of pure political skill and gut instinct," said Mr. Goeas.

Views differ on how conservative, in style and substance, the new House leadership will be. Outgoing Majority Leader Dick Armey of Texas was just as outspoken in his conservative views as Mr. DeLay, but did not seek re-election to the House.

Missouri Rep. Roy Blunt, a quiet conservative, replaces Mr. Delay as Republican whip. Ohio Rep. Deborah Pryce, a centrist, replaces conservative Oklahoma Rep. J.C. Watts Jr., who did not seek re-election, as House Republican Conference chairman.

In the view of most Republicans, that leaves Mr. DeLay as the chief public spokesman for conservative issues among the House Republican leaders.

"DeLay is always going to have a voice in the public arena outside Congress," Mr. Ney said. "The conservative movement knows him in a way it doesn't know any of the other Republican leaders in the House. And, absolutely, he will remain our best fund-raiser."


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