"This has shown the fissures that are there and I do think the party leaders — it may cause the need for some change in the party leadership," Lott told The Hill.
Lott's comments come as McDaniel, who was defeated by Cochran in a runoff election of the Republican primary, prepares to wage a legal challenge to the election results. McDaniel, a tea party favorite, argues that Cochran won only through the help of Democratic voters and therefore is not actually the Republican nominee for U.S. Senate. In the primary Lott supported Cochran but also said he would support McDaniel if the state senator won the nomination.
Lott suggested that Mississippi Republicans shouldn't completely ignore the tea partiers.
"If they try to just stuff 'em or stiff 'em, and don't realize that there's a lesson to be learned there, it could be a problem," Lott said.
But Lott did say that he didn't think McDaniel's efforts to fight the election results would create an opening for Democrats to take Cochran's seat. Democrats hope that the bloody primary battle would create an opening for former Rep. Travis Childers (D) to move in and take the seat. Instead, Lott said that the fight had just "creates some problems internally, within the party in the state."
The rise of the tea party wing of the GOP came after Lott left the Senate but he said he could have faced a tea party challenge if he were still in the Senate.
"I also have asked myself — after what I saw happen in Mississippi this very year — would I have that kind of challenge? Because I had been accused as someone who would make a deal, or [be] willing to compromise to get a result.
"Times are so different. I don't know how I would do, but I do know one thing: They'd have to take me out, because I'd sure go down swinging."