On the other hand, if Mr Norquist's goal is only incidentally to ensure that taxes stay low while his principal goal is ensuring the continued relevance of Grover Norquist, than he ought to whack Mr Chambliss squarely in the knees. After all, Mr Chambliss had the temerity to say that he cared "more about my country than I do about a 20-year-old pledge." He told an audience of Republicans in Cobb County, just north of Atlanta, that he did not "want to be dictated to by anyone in Washington," a clear reference to Mr Norquist. And he said that he expected his disagreement with Mr Norquist—a disagreement, let's remember, on whether he ought to be bound by Mr Norquist's pledge, not on the substance of that pledge—would lead to a primary challenge in 2014. Mr Chambliss has not actually voted to raise anybody's taxes, yet he may find himself in Mr Norquist's crosshairs.
The ground for such punishment is fertile: a recent PPP poll shows that 43% of Georgia's Republican primary voters would prefer someone more conservative than Mr Chambliss, compared to just 38% who support Mr Chambliss. Once you swap out Some Guy for specific people, however, things start looking up for Mr Chambliss. He leads Tom Price, a congressman from the northern Atlanta suburbs; Paul Broun, a congressman who sits on the House Science Committee but also believes much mainstream science is "lies straight from the pit of hell"; and Karen Handel, who in 2010 came within a single percentage point of being elected governor but was dogged by a non-anti-gay record. The only conservative challenger who fared well against Mr Chambliss was Herman Cain, who led him 50-36 in a hypothetical head-to-head race. Now, I think I speak for all political journalists when I say I dearly hope Mr Cain will run; no campaign or candidate was as much fun to cover this year as the Herminator. And while he previously said he did not want to run, that was before this poll was published.
But here's the problem. Dig a little deeper into the poll's crosstabs, and you will find Mr Chambliss running strongly against several Georgia Democrats: Roy Barnes, a former governor; Max Cleland, a former senator; John Barrow, a congressman from south Georgia; Kasim Reed, Atlanta's mayor; and Jason Carter, Jimmy's grandson, a state senator (none of whom have declared an interest in running, and none of whom I would peg as likely candidates). Mr Price, however—a decent stand-in for Some Guy (R-GA)—runs significantly worse against Democratic challengers. We have been here before. Georgia may not have voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1992, but it is not deep red; Barack Obama won over 45% of the vote, and demographic trends favour Democrats more than Republicans. A Democratic insider tells me that the more formidable challengers to Mr Chambliss are likely to sit out 2014 and wait for those trends to play out a bit more. But a bruising primary, or a primary that Mr Chambliss loses, might make them change their minds. As for Mr Norquist, if he finds rebellion hard to stomach now, just wait until he delivers a Senate seat into Democratic hands.
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