Did "The Hammer" Nail the Cha-Cha?

Tom Delay
In this Monday, Sept. 21, 2009 photo, Former House Republican Whip Tom DeLay, 62, dances on the ABC Television's "Dancing with the Stars, " in Los Angeles. DeLay surprised the crowd. DeLay, performed a cha-cha to the 1960s hit "Wild Thing." (AP Photo/ABC, Adam Larkey) NO SALES; MAGS OUT; NO ARCHIVE
AP Photo/ABC, Adam Larkey

It's a long way from the House floor to the dance floor - but don't tell that to Tom DeLay, whose exuberant, hip shaking, lip synching cha-cha on "Dancing with the Stars" left his former colleagues captivated, reports CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes.

A fellow Texan, Congressman Henry Cuellar rated him a 7.

Republican Ileana Ros-Lehtinen took issue with his technique.

"Doing the cha-cha, it was like a bad car accident," Ros-Lehtinen said. "You want to look away but you can't."

The former House majority leader was hardly a soft shoe in the halls of Congress, where his nickname was "The Hammer."

His dancing debut marks a new stage for DeLay, who exited the national spotlight in disgrace after being indicted for violating Texas campaign laws.

"The man is back! I don't know what he's running for," said Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-N.Y.

One judge called DeLay's performance "half magic, half tragic."

"You're crazier than Sarah Palin!" said Bruno Tonioli, a "Dancing with the Stars" judge.

Republican leaders didn't know quite what to call it, but Democrat Dennis Kucinich gained a new respect for his old foe.

"He's kind of the 21st century John Travolta and Fred Astaire wrapped into one," Kucinich said.

And how does DeLay think he did? Well, after the show, with his trademark bravado, The Hammer declared, "I nailed it."

  • Nancy Cordes
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    Nancy Cordes is CBS News' congressional correspondent.