Will Armey Divide and Conquer?

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WASHINGTON: With the GOP's leadership vote a week away, Newt Gingrich's calls for Republican unity are working about as well as they ever did. The race for who will play majority leader -- incumbent Dick Armey, Steve Largent or moderate Jennifer Dunn -- in Speaker-in-waiting Bob Livingston's reign is a roller-derby affair that is revealing a lot about the intra-party squabbles that Gingrich hoped to quiet with his departure.

Special Report Armey's supporters claim he's got it wrapped up, but that hasn't yet deterred his rivals, who are well aware of the Republican yen for fresh faces to deliver their sound bites. "A lot of Republicans blame Armey for being politically tone-deaf and a bad spokesman," says TIME Washington correspondent Karen Tumulty. But they may not be ready for the alternatives. Largent, the telegenic ex-jock, offers a silver tongue, but his die-hard social conservatism scares the moderates. Dunn's entry, says Tumulty, "is very exciting, but there's a question of whether she'll lose out because of her pro-abortion stance" -- conservatives aren't ready for that much inclusiveness. That may well leave Armey as the compromise that nobody wants -- and Republicans just as divided as ever.