Trent Lott `Won't Be a Bob Dole'

Article excerpt

TRENT LOTT, talking recently to senior citizens, mused about how lonely it was seeking a House seat as a Republican in rural Mississippi 25 years ago.

"Many places I would go in that congressional district, I was the first live Republican they'd ever seen," Lott said.

"I'd go to these small towns, and they would come out from the stores: `There's a Republican in town. You ever see one?' "

The brash senator with the bass Southern drawl has been raising eyebrows ever since. Now, in replacing Sen. Bob Dole as majority leader, Lott becomes the pace-setter for a Senate that has become younger, more conservative and more confrontational.

"He won't be a Bob Dole," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho. Dole, who resigned his seat to focus on the presidential campaign, is known for his skills as a pragmatic, behind-the-scenes dealmaker. Asked to describe Lott, Craig replied, "Aggressiveness is a word that's reasonable."

Larry Sabato, a University of Virginia political scientist, said: "Dole saw the Senate as a club. Lott sees it as warfare."

Lott, 54, shares a similar conservative philosophy and is only four years younger than the man he defeated for the leadership post, fellow Mississippian Thad Cochran. But their race was seen as a generational choice between the more-outgoing and partisan Lott and Cochran, known for his quiet, more decorous manner.

Lott has a long history of shaking up the establishment. After graduating with a law degree from the University of Mississippi, where he was on the cheerleading squad, he went to work for Rep. …