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Armey won't endorse anyone in brewing House leader's race

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Though House Majority Whip Tom DeLay is "a good, able guy," House Majority Leader Dick Armey said Sunday that he will not endorse DeLay, or anyone else, in the race to succeed him as leader of the House Republicans when he retires next year.

In an interview on NBC's "Meet The Press," Armey, who announced this week that he won't run for re-election in 2002 and will give up his post as the No. 2 GOP leader in the House, said the decision on who should be the next majority leader will be up to the Republican caucus.

"I don't endorse this. I'm not in that race," he said.

But asked about comments from some GOP lawmakers that DeLay, nicknamed "the Hammer" for his work in the whip's post, may not present the right image for the Republicans as majority leader, Armey said the criticism was not fair.

"We've got a lot of people that think the world of Tom DeLay, and I wish you'd have had some of their quotes," he said. "Tom DeLay's a good, able guy. He's done a good job. He's got a good head on his shoulders."

As whip, DeLay is No. 3 in the House Republican hierarchy, behind House Speaker Dennis Hastert and Armey. He is seen as the early favorite to move up to the majority leader's post when Armey leaves.

Armey said the impression of DeLay as a "tough guy" stems from his job as the whip, the person responsible for rounding up votes for the Republican leadership. He said DeLay may turn out to be "sweet and gentle in a different kind of framework."


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