Matt Towery
ATLANTA -- Despite on onslaught of national press that seemed to be pushing Elizabeth Colbert Busch toward a victory in the South Carolina special congressional election, former Gov. Mark Sanford, baggage and all, prevailed with a resounding victory. And while I never judge personal lives, it is fair to say that voters in that district overlooked quite a lot in giving Sanford a pass on his past and into the U.S. House.

Many political pundits, at least when it looked like Colbert Busch was a potential winner, began to suggest that the outcome of her race against Sanford might be instructive as to another and bigger contest that will occur next year in neighboring Georgia. There, a U.S. Senate seat, open as a result of Sen. Saxby Chambliss' decision not to seek re-election, will be hotly contested.

Most experts would presume that Georgia's status as a "safe" Republican state would guarantee victory for a GOP nominee in a state where Democrats over the past decade have not fared so well. But recent polling suggests that Georgia, like many other GOP-leaning states, has shifted from being one in which most voters view themselves as both fiscally and socially conservative, to one where many have, as they do every so often, tired a bit of social issues.

This makes the Republican primary in Georgia next year a tricky one indeed. The players include Rep. Phil Gingrey of metro Atlanta, Jack Kingston of coastal Georgia including Savannah, and Paul Broun of the university town of Athens. Waiting in the wings may be former Secretary of State Karen Handel and, less likely, Rep. Tom Price, also from the Atlanta area.

All of the potential candidates would likely make it on an "all-star" team of conservative elected or former elected officials. But one name stands out in the minds of political pundits and so-called experts -- Broun.

The conventional wisdom is that Broun will have the support of the most extreme of conservative voters in Georgia and that the other candidates will follow his lead on virtually every issue, so that, as Kingston suggested, no one will outflank anyone else on the conservative side of issues.

Broun is a likable if not somewhat quirky fellow whose ultraconservative views have been solidly in place for years, even when he was a political activist and GOP supporter while his well-respected and now deceased father ruled his area of the state as a staunch Democrat.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery