Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) is no stranger to street fighting, but apparently doesn't have the stomach for another battle. He was first elected to the Senate in 2002 in a brutal campaign against Max Cleland, a Vietnam Veteran and triple amputee. He accused Cleland of being weak on defense and homeland security and ran television ads showing Osama bin Laden and implying Cleland wouldn't have the guts to stand up to him. Chambliss never served in the Armed Forces, getting a student deferment during the Vietnam War.
Neverthless, Chambliss clearly feared a primary with one or more tea party candidates, although he might have prevailed in a multiway primary in which the tea party votes were evenly split. Since the winner of the Republican primary is the odds-on favorite in the general election, a lot of people are suddenly going to get interested in the primary. Observers are expecting a free for all with potentially a dozen candidates at the outset. All of Georgia's Republican representatives will surely perk up their ears as will some of the statewide officials. One factor they need to consider is geography. About 80% of the state's population lives north of I-20, which runs east-west through the state. Candidates whose base is north of I-20 will have an obvious advantage getting started and raising money initially. Rep. Phil Gingrey (R-GA) and Rep. Tom Price (R-GA) represent districts north of I-20.
One potential problem for the Republicans is that if many representatives decide to run for the Senate and not for reelection to the House, there could be a real shakeup in the George House delegation.