Sen. Saxby ChamblissThe name Saxby Chambliss wasn’t on the ballot when House Republicans selected on Wednesday the next chairman their conference, but it may as well have been: the result of that race likely means Georgia’s senior senator will face at least one serious primary challenger when he seeks reelection in 2014.

Rep. Tom Price, a conservative orthopedic surgeon from Roswell, had the backing of his party’s most recent vice presidential nominee and some of the most conservative members of the caucus but ultimately came up short in his bid to steer the Republican conference.

His colleagues instead tapped Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers. The race was decided by secret balloting and a tally was not yet publicly floated.

Some viewed the contest as an abstract measure of conservative influence in the party as it copes with an emboldened Democratic president and senate.

But back home it had much more material implications: namely, the primary landscape in the midterm elections.

Republican insiders have maintained for the better part of a year that Price was weighing a possible challenge to Chambliss, who is eyeing his third term in the Senate. The good doctor has demurred on the question while those in his orbit have insisted his focus was on securing a promotion in the House’s leadership ranks.

That’s no longer the case.

– James Richardson