Saxby Chambliss announced that he would not seek re-election in 2014. This has made some people wonder about who might take his Senate seat. Georgia was one of the few states that actually increased its percentage of votes for Barack Obama in 2012 which has led some to speculate if the Senate seat might go to a Democratic candidate.
Public Policy Polling continued its use of hypothetical matchups to determine who might be able to win the Senate seat. On the Republican side, they focused on doctor turned controversial Congressman Paul Broun who has negative favorability 14/34, congressman Phil Gingrey (21/31), the controversial former vice-president of public policy of Susan G. Komen (21/33), congressman Jack Kingston (18/23), and congressman Tom Price (18/25). Herman Cain announced that he would not seek the Senate seat in Georgia, so he was left out. Allen West decried moving to Georgia to run for Senate in November but he is still being courted by the GOP faithful there.
On the Democratic side, Public Policy Polling only focused on three candidates. They focused on Congressman John Barrow (14/27), Jimmy Carter’s grandson state senator Jason Carter (10/18), and former Senator Max Cleland (48/29).
Not surprisingly, Cleland is the strongest candidate for the Senate. He won all of his hypothetical matchups winning anywhere from 1 to 7 points. Tom Price is the strongest Republican candidate in these matchups, consistently getting 44% of the vote. But Republican primary voters don’t like him that much. It’s clustered at this time but Kingston and Handel are tied at 15% each, with GOP primary voters. Followed by Casey Cagle at 13%, Gingrey gets 13%, Broun 11%, Price 10%, and Tom Graves 3%. There is not a separate account for Democratic primary voters.
These polls at this point are probably meaningless, as only a couple of the potential candidates have more than 50% name recognition. With the Republican primary situation so clustered, we can’t tell which candidate is going to emerge or even has a strong chance to. While Cleland is currently leading the field, including against Republicans, he’s doing so by slim margins with a huge name recognition advantage. If Cleland secures the nomination it’s possible that he would win if he was able to run against a Republican who was further to the right than the center. At this point, I would have to side with history in that it’s been 13 years for a Democratic candidate to win a major election in Georgia, and say that this Senate seat is leaning Republican, now. A lot will depend on who wins the Republican primary or who actually decides that they want to run. It’ll be an interesting race to monitor and will certainly attract outside spending with the release of these numbers.