"Can we form a comfortable relationship around the principles of small government?" asked Armey when describing the challenge of getting the tea party activists to join forces with the Republican Party to produce GOP electoral gains.
For a party that has spent the last five years in the doldrums, the shifting political winds are being greeted here with great excitement. But Republicans are aware that voters are not yet embracing the party as much as they are rejecting Washington.
This week's NBC/Wall Street Journal poll showed Democrats and Republicans in a statistical tie when respondents were asked which party they would like to see control congress after the November midterms.
"Yes, this is the best year for Republicans since 2004. But they shouldn't be heady at all," said Dowd.
"Voters still dislike Republicans in Congress more than they dislike Democrats in Congress. And Republicans have no popular leader to rally behind like they did in 2002. And Republican registration has not grown in the last year," he added.
David Chalian is ABC News' Political Director.