Just a few months ago, Sen. Saxby Chambliss, a two-term Republican incumbent from Georgia, started facing credible primary threats in advance of his 2014 re-election bid. In a bit of a surprise, the senator has said there won't be a re-election campaign -- Chambliss is retiring at the end of his term (via James Carter).
U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss will announce this morning that he's dropping plans to run for a third term in 2014, a decision certain to set off an avalanche of Republican candidates who will seek to replace him.
Word out of Washington is that Chambliss broke the news to his senior staff this morning.
The news was not widely expected, and Chambliss was expected to win re-election if he sought another term.
What's especially interesting now, however, is the field of Republican candidates who may try to succeed Chambliss in 2014. One of the leading GOP officials to watch is Rep. Paul Broun (R-Ga.), who said just this week that was considering taking on Chambliss in a primary, and with the incumbent stepping down, the congressman is that much more likely to run himself.
That would set up quite a campaign -- Broun is one of Congress' more ridiculous members, and a Senate campaign would create an Akin-in-Missouri situation in which a candidate may simply be too nutty to compete on a statewide level, even in the South. In this case, Broun is perhaps best known for arguing that that cosmology, biology, and geology are, quite literally, "lies straight from the pit of Hell," and that President Obama only believes in supporting "the Soviet constitution."
In other words, even among loony extremists, Broun is almost a caricature of himself.
This matters because Georgia could prove to be far more interesting than expected. In 2008, when Chambliss sought a second term, he won by a narrow margin after being forced into a runoff when he won 49% of the vote on Election Day. Since then, Georgia's population has only grown more diverse.
If a strong Democratic candidate faced off against a ridiculous right-wing extremist, could this become a blue-to-red pick-up opportunity? Quite possibly, yes.
In addition to Broun, I should also note that Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) is also likely to consider the race. Gingrey, of course, recently argued that Todd Akin raised a good point when he said rape victims can't get pregnant.
Update: And yes, it's true that Herman Cain once ran for the Senate in Georgia, and might do so again. I doubt he'd run, but it's probably another GOP player to watch.