Chambliss could face a primary challenger for his Senate seat in 2014. Georgia conservatives and tea party members see the two-term Republican’s willingness to work across the aisle as a weakness.
Georgia GOP political insiders floated that another Republican member might take a run at Chambliss.
“It’s not just Tom Price — there’s a lot of palace intrigue down here,” said a top Republican strategist in Atlanta.
An aide to Rep. Paul Broun said he was focused on his current job but left the door wide open to a bid. “Dr. Broun is not running for Senate at this time,” spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti said in a statement.
Reached by phone Monday, Georgia Rep. Tom Graves declined to comment for this story.
Still, the base’s dissatisfaction with Chambliss is driving talk of a challenge, and insiders see an in for Price or a similar member.
“Our base is very, very conservative,” a Georgia Republican operative said. “The fact that our base is shaky on Saxby gives Tom an opening.”
Beyond Chambliss’ openness to compromise, there are also stylistic concerns. He’s mild-mannered, and the base often wants a firebrand, activists said.
Tom Perdue, the senator’s chief political strategist, admitted Chambliss had issues with some of the base but indicated that was the price of doing business in a chamber with two parties.
“There are tea party people who do not like Saxby. And their position is you really should never work with a Democrat,” he said. “I don’t know how you get anything done in Congress if you don’t work with members of the opposing party.”
Perdue said the senator, who had $1.4 million in the bank at the end of September, was definitely running for re-election. And Perdue didn’t begrudge members floating their names out there but expected none to jump in the race.
“Those who are talking about running against him today, they have been friends over the years, and their interest is pretty much the same as Saxby’s, but a couple of them tend to lean to the side of the party that talks tough and can’t get things done,” he said.
Chambliss, for his part, has also been extending an open hand to the tea party movement.
“He is trying to reach out to different tea party activists, to different conservatives and tried to mend those fences,” Dooley said. “But whether or not it’s too little, too late is anybody’s guess.”