From the moment that Georgia senator Saxby Chambliss declared that he would be willing to break his pledge to Grover Norquist and vote to raise taxes, it’s been clear that the Tea Party would target Chambliss for a primary challenge in 2014.
According to a new Public Policy Polling survey of Republican primary voters in Georgia, Chambliss would be very vulnerable to such a challenge. The right wing’s best hope for defeating Georgia’s senior senator is a familiar face: former pizza magnate and presidential candidate Herman Cain.
The PPP poll shows Chambliss’ approval rating at 45 percent, with 36 percent disapproving and 19 percent not sure. That less than 50 percent of Chambliss’ own party views him favorably is a major warning sign for the incumbent. Additionally, just 38 percent say they want Chambliss to be their nominee next year, while 43 percent say they want a more conservative nominee.
Could Cain be that nominee? The poll suggests that he would be the strongest challenger by far. In a head-to-head matchup with Chambliss, Cain would hold a huge 50 to 36 percent lead, with 13 percent undecided.
Despite running one of the oddest presidential campaigns in history — featuring empty policy proposals, absurd ads, and ending amid accusations of sexual harassment and marital infidelity — Cain is wildly popular among Georgia Republicans. According to PPP, 68 percent of Republican primary voters have a favorable opinion of Cain, while 20 percent have an unfavorable opinion and 12 percent are not sure.
Cain, who unsuccessfully ran for the Republican Senate nomination in Georgia in 2004, has said that he will not run against Chambliss. As these poll numbers show, however, he’d be the odds-on favorite if he changes his mind.
If Cain does not choose to run, then Chambliss will be in good shape for re-election. According to the PPP poll, he leads all his other likely challengers — Rep. Paul Broun, Rep. Tom Price, former Rep. Allen West, former Georgia secretary of state Karen Handel, and conservative pundit Erick Erickson — by double digits. Furthermore, no Democrat would be well-positioned to defeat Chambliss. Only former senator Max Cleland — who Chambliss defeated in a viciously ugly campaign in 2002 — would pose a serious threat to the incumbent senator, registering a 45 to 45 percent tie.
Photo by Gage Skidmore via Flickr.com