Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., stands out among his fellow Republicans in the Georgia delegation, many of whom are considering challenging him for Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat in 2014. Broun was the first -- and so far only -- to announce a bid for the Senate. He has received perhaps the most national media attention, though the bulk of it has centered on his sometimes controversial rhetoric. And he is by far the least conservative, according to National Journal's 2012 Vote Ratings.
Broun is just the 175th most conservative member of the House on this year's list, lagging far behind his GOP colleagues who are taking a look at the Senate seat: Reps. Phil Gingrey (52nd), Jack Kingston (55th), Tom Price (59th) and Tom Graves (68th). That distance could come into play in a Republican primary that's expected to feature at least three, if not all five congressmen. Graves has already spent the last month touting his conservative scores with Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity, both of which ranked him as the most conservative member of the Peach State's delegation.
Gingrey, Price and Graves all voted more conservatively on social issues than 91 percent of their colleagues in the House, while Kingston had a more conservative voting record than 80 percent of House members. Ironically, Broun, who has made a name for himself on those issues -- famously referring to the theory of evolution as a lie "straight from the pit of Hell" -- comes in close to the middle of the pack in the House, voting more conservatively than only 57 percent of members last year.
The same story line plays out on fiscal issues, with Broun's four potential opponents all voting more conservatively than more than eighty percent of their colleagues -- Gingrey (86 percent), Kingston (90 percent), Price (87 percent) and Graves (81 percent) -- while Broun trails with a record that is more conservative than just 58 percent of other House members'.
On foreign policy, however, Broun does fall in line with the majority of the delegation, who voted moderately on those issues last year. The exceptions: Gingrey and Kingston who voted more conservatively than 72 percent and 81 percent of their colleagues, respectively.
Overall, the ratings seem to indicate that despite his rhetoric, Broun is a relative moderate, a revelation unlikely to help his nascent bid to replace the 11th most conservative member of the Senate. Still, Broun has a record of strong scores with conservative organizations, including an A from Americans for Prosperity and a 95-percent rating from Heritage Action, which rated him much higher than Price, Gingrey or Kingston.
Moderation is key, however, for Democrats, who are hoping to push Rep. John Barrow into the race. Though Barrow has said that he isn't considering a run at the moment, he hasn't completely ruled it out -- and the 2012 Vote Ratings offer good news for him should he mount a bid. National Journal has ranked him as the second-most-conservative Democrat in the House, coming in just behind former Rep. Dan Boren, D-Okla., who retired last year.
That willingness to buck his party helped Barrow to fend off a tough challenge from Republican state Sen. Lee Anderson in 2012 and could be even more effective in a race across Georgia, which is actually less conservative than his congressional district. President Obama lost Barrow's 12th District by almost 12 points last year, while Mitt Romney only carried the state by 8 points.