Saxby Chambliss is taking serious the possibility of a primary challenge from his right, smoothing relations with conservative activists still chaffing at the Republican’s episodic efforts to strike bipartisan compromise, even as his top political aides believe none of the most-rumored contenders will be in the eventual hunt for the nomination battle.
Chambliss enters the 2014 midterm cycle unique even among other vulnerable incumbent lawmakers, his profile as a mild-mannered deal-maker leaving him “arguably the senator most exposed to a primary challenge,” as Roll Call, which canvassed the crop of would-be opponents, warns todays.
But the Capitol Hill newspaper’s probing of the senator’s preemptive posturing revealed he has quietly endeavored to mollify his conservative critics before firm allegiances are made to any possible challengers.
“He is trying to reach out to different tea party activists, to different conservatives and tried to mend those fences,” Debbie Dooley, one of the state’s earliest and most prominent tea party activists, told Roll Call. “But whether or not it’s too little, too late is anybody’s guess.”
Chambliss has maintained for months now that primary opposition is unavoidable–”I know we’ll have a primary,” he says–because of the state’s one-party power dynamics.
Still, his top political brass say they are not anticipating the emergence of a marquee challenger.
“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,” Tom Perdue, Chambliss’ top political aide, told the paper. “[B]ut a couple of them tend to lean to the side of the party that talks tough and can’t get things done.”
- James Richardson