In a survey conducted by Public Policy Polling (PPP), 43 percent of Republican primary voters say that they would like to see ‘someone more conservative’ as the party’s nominee in 2014, while 38 percent want to keep incumbent Senator Saxby Chambliss.
He currently holds an overall job approval rating of 45 percent, with 36 percent disapproving.
Those initial numbers follow weeks of national attention for his remarks regarding bipartisanship and Grover Norquist’s anti-tax increase pledge.
Despite lowered personal favorability, Chambliss leads his most speculated primary challengers by wide margins.
“He leads Congressman Paul Broun by a 57/14 margin in a head to head, has a 52/34 advantage over Congressman Tom Price, and leads former Secretary of State Karen Handel 52/23,” reads the press release from PPP.
The bulk of the poll’s 729 participants had no opinion of Price, Broun or Handel, with the former Secretary of State being the only contender whom a majority of voters have a formed opinion.
“Saxby Chambliss is in a weak position with Republican voters but right now most of his potential primary foes have low name recognition,” the release further states. “If one of them mounts a strong campaign though he’ll be in a lot of trouble.”
Only pizza conglomerate, radio host and former presidential candidate Herman Cain would top Chambliss in a hypothetical matchup, by a margin of 50-36 percent. For his part Cain has already ruled out a challenge. Similarly, some had speculated that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich might consider throwing his hat in the ring, but yesterday he told National Review’s Bob Costa that he has “explicitly no interest” in a run.
The initial batch of numbers also indicates that, should he survive a primary fight, Chambliss would likely have an easy path to general election victory. This is due in large part to the fact that he holds a 28 percent approval rating among Democrats. According to PPP’s numbers, “Chambliss leads former Governor Roy Barnes 48-40, Congressman John Barrow 50-37, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed 52-37, and State Senator Jason Carter 52-34.”
Former Senator Max Cleland, who was defeated by Chambliss in 2002, would enter the race tied at 45 percent, but he’s shown no remote interest in a return to public life; Congressman John Barrow has also ruled out a statewide run.
The results compare Chambliss’s starting point to those of Indiana’s Richard Lugar, who was out-flanked on his right in a 2012 primary. His senatorial colleague, and longtime friend, Johnny Isakson dismissed such comparisons in recent comments to Politico. “Georgia is a reach out and touch the people state — most Southern states are — and he does a great job of that.”
Though he’s made clear he’s running again, Chambliss has forsworn backing off the stances that sparked the recent flood of primary speculation.