Georgia Republicans are becoming increasingly worried that a divisive primary coupled with a strong Democratic candidate might lead to a loss of the Senate seat of retiring Saxbe Chambliss.
Recent polling shows the two candidates Republicans are most anxious about - Reps. Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.) - leading the pack. Whoever emerges from the clown-car primary, with seven candidates and counting, will face a candidate Democrats are high on in a state where shifting demographics benefit their party.
Losing Georgia's open Senate seat would do severe damage to Republicans' hopes of winning the net of six seats necessary to take control of the Senate.
"Gingrey has a history of making some gaffes, and Broun it seems like it's a gaffe every other day. Those are the two that worry Republicans the most as potential problems going into the general election," said Georgia Republican strategist Joel McElhannon, who's neutral in the race.
Georgia Republicans say they have the upper hand in the race to replace retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) in a state where President Obama won 45 percent of the vote in 2012. But they voice concern over a number of potential scenarios in a primary that's anyone's for the taking.
Non-profit CEO Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), has a clear Democratic field and is positioning herself as an economically centrist problem-solver. While she's an untested candidate Democrats are excited about her profile, and she ran slightly ahead of or even with every Republican in a recent poll conducted by the Democratic firm Public Policy Polling.
The scenario that panics Republicans is Broun winning the nomination. The Tea Party-affiliated congressman has generated controversy by calling evolution and the big bang theory "lies straight from the pit of hell" and routinely referring to President Obama as a socialist.
He has some strong support in the GOP base and sports a perfect rating with the deep-pocketed, fiscally conservative Club for Growth, which could give him a big financial boost if they decide to get involved in the race. Many think they might, especially if Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), a longtime appropriator with a more centrist record, makes the two-candidate runoff.
Either Broun or Gingrey would be very competitive so I don't necessarily see the problem. They're both bomb throwers but the Georgia GOP appears to like that sort of candidate.
And it doesn't matter who wins the GOP primary, they're going to have a close race with Nunn running. Perhaps Republicans are concerned that the race isn't going to be a cakewalk, as many other statewide races have been for the GOP.
Nominating a Tea Party candidate might be a big concern in some states but may actually be an advantage in Georgia. Boosting conservative turnout in a mid term election where getting out the base vote is of vital importance is hardly the worst scenario one can imagine in Georgia.
Any Republican who's in a "panic" because a far right candidate might win the primary should relax and see how things work out.