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CBS's Rodriguez: Will Tea Party Drive Out GOP Moderates or 'Fade Away'?

On Wednesday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez painted a grim picture of the future of the tea party: "...they could either stay in the Republican Party and the more moderate Republicans will either have to adjust or maybe do what Charlie Crist did down in Florida and become independents or the tea party could become its own political party or the tea party could just fade away."

She made the assessment while discussing the midterm election results with political analyst John Dickerson, who responded: "Well, I think that we can agree the latter is not going to happen, they are incredibly energized. Last night's results make the tea party a real force. And they're going to be watching, though, as you suggest, in the other two options, they're going to be watching Republicans and keeping score."

Later, Rodriguez argued voters sent mixed messages in the election: "We asked voters what the priority should be for the new Congress and they were almost equally split, reducing the budget deficit, 39%, spending to create jobs, 37%. What would newly elected lawmakers take from these numbers?" Dickerson agreed: "Well, the message is a bit of a muddle isn't it?...On the one hand they want spending to create jobs and on the other hand they want deficit reduction. Well, in a way, that was the Obama plan, spend now then we'll reduce the deficit."

Dickerson went to warn against Republicans claiming a mandate: "Well, the new House Republicans are coming in and they're going to reduce spending and reduce the deficit and they're not going to do any spending for new jobs. So, the 37 or so percent are going to be disappointed....when you look underneath the numbers, it's complex and not that clear, certainly, that there is a mandate and that's why Republican officials were smart not to claim a mandate for anything in particular."

Rodriguez ended the segment by wondering: "Do you think that the results of last night's election create now an environment in Washington where we'll see more bipartisanship or even more bickering?" Dickerson replied: "Well, there seems like it's all set up for bickering."

Here is a full transcript of the November 3 segment:

8:07AM ET

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Joining us once again from Washington, CBS News political analyst John Dickerson. John, good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: Hello, Maggie.

RODRIGUEZ: Let's talk about what voters expect from these new lawmakers, beginning with the tea party. 40% of the people who voted yesterday say that they support this movement. There are a couple of scenarios that I could see unfolding with the tea party and I want your get your opinion. I think that they could either stay in the Republican Party and the more moderate Republicans will either have to adjust or maybe do what Charlie Crist did down in Florida and become independents or the tea party could become its own political party or the tea party could just fade away, which do you think is most likely?

DICKERSON: Well, I think that we can agree the latter is not going to happen, they are incredibly energized. Last night's results make the tea party a real force. And they're going to be watching, though, as you suggest, in the other two options, they're going to be watching Republicans and keeping score. And I think where we'll really see that play out, obviously in pieces of legislation as they bounce along as tea party activists sort of give the thumbs up or thumbs down, but we'll see it in the 2012 presidential candidate, who will court those core conservatives of the Republican Party. They've always been there, but they've got a new name now and new energy. And that's where we'll really see the sort of next chapter of the tea party movement.

RODRIGUEZ: The economy was priority one in this election, as we expected. 90% of the voters say that they're unhappy with the state of the national economy. But interestingly, they blame Wall Street bankers and George W. Bush for the current economic problems more than they do Barack Obama. So John, if the economy picks up now, who gets the credit, the Republican Congress or the Democratic president?

DICKERSON: Well, that's the fight we're going to have. I think the President will get some of the credit, and - just as he got lots of the blame. And the question is when and how the economy picks up. But that will be the big debate over the next couple of years, if, in fact, the economy does turn around. And we'll just have of to - you know, the President basically has to hope for that for his fortunes to rebound the way they did for Ronald Reagan after his midterm losses and Bill Clinton when he also had the same.

RODRIGUEZ: We asked voters what the priority should be for the new Congress and they were almost equally split, reducing the budget deficit, 39%, spending to create jobs, 37%. What would newly elected lawmakers take from these numbers?

DICKERSON: Well, the message is a bit of a muddle isn't it?

RODRIGUEZ: Right.

DICKERSON: On the one hand they want spending to create jobs and on the other hand they want deficit reduction. Well, in a way, that was the Obama plan, spend now then we'll reduce the deficit. Well, the new House Republicans are coming in and they're going to reduce spending and reduce the deficit and they're not going to do any spending for new jobs. So, the 37 or so percent are going to be disappointed. And this is part the texture of this outcome, lots of support for Republicans but, when you look underneath the numbers, it's complex and not that clear, certainly, that there is a mandate and that's why Republican officials were smart not to claim a mandate for anything in particular. But, instead, to frame this as a repudiation of the current Obama policies.

RODRIGUEZ: Do you think that the results of last night's election create now an environment in Washington where we'll see more bipartisanship or even more bickering?

DICKERSON: Well, there seems like it's all set up for bickering because there's the tension between Democrats and Republicans and there are the inter-party tensions between Republicans, sort of establishment Republicans, and tea party Republicans, and then in the Democratic caucus there are some folks who might want to go to the middle, and then progressives, the House members who are left, liberals who will say, no, we've got to fight. All of those tensions don't suggest a lot of activity. In the end, though, politicians of both side may realize that the voters sent a clear signal they don't like either party and maybe one way the parties - both parties - might get back in their good graces is to actually do something.

RODRIGUEZ: Imagine that. John Dickerson. Thank you, John.

DICKERSON: Thanks, Maggie.

-Kyle Drennen is a news analyst at the Media Research Center. You can follow him on Twitter here.