NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Rep. Paul Broun, R-Ga., has a message for his colleagues in the Peach State's delegation who are considering challenging him for the Republican nomination for Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat: Don't bother.
"I hope everyone in the delegation gets ready to stay where they are because I'm gonna beat 'em," he told Hotline On Call at the Conservative Political Action Conference here on Thursday evening.
Broun spoke at an unlisted event sponsored by the groups Tea Party Nation and Tea Party Express. "I hope we are hearing from the next senator from Georgia," Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips said, in introducing Broun.
After the event, Phillips told On Call that he personally had endorsed Broun, but that his group was unlikely to back a candidate in the primary, which is expected to feature several members of the Georgia delegation. Reps. Tom Price, Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey are all considered likely candidates.
However, Phillips added that the group is in the process of forming a PAC that will take a position in the primary -- if it is set up in time. He reiterated his personal support of Broun, but said that he would have to discuss any endorsement by the PAC with the group's board. "Any of [the potential candidates] are going to be an improvement over Saxby Chambliss," he added.
Broun, a medical doctor, focused largely on health care during his remarks before twenty or so self-identified tea partiers, who frequently murmured and shouted "Amen" as he spoke. "We must rip out Obamacare by the roots and replace it with something ... that will put you in charge," Broun said, adding that he will introduce a replacement bill in the House in the near future.
"The only bill that actually does not look to government to make decisions is the Patient Option Act, my bill," Broun said. "I've got a colleague from Georgia who introduced a bill, but it still looks to government. Government's the problem."
Afterwards, in an email, his spokeswoman Meredith Griffanti said that Broun was not referring to any colleague in particular.
Broun also said repeatedly that both parties were responsible for the country's current fiscal problems, and that voters will have to force them to "change their wicked ways."
"There are a lot of people in the House and Senate who need to feel the heat so they can see the light -- some of 'em ought to see the door," he said. Asked after the speech if he was referring to any members of the Georgia delegation, Broun said that that was up to "we the people" and declined to comment further.
Broun, who is the only declared candidate in the race so far, told On Call that he is working hard to gain the support of the grassroots in the Peach State, and that he is encouraged by the support he has received so far. "I'm a grassroots guy," he told the tea party groups. "I fought the whole political structure of Georgia just about when I was elected to Congress in 2007, from the governor on down."
He is likely to rely heavily on grassroots support in the Senate race as well, particularly in a primary featuring several of his congressional colleagues. Kingston and Gingrey both have close ties to Gov. Nathan Deal. And some national Republicans could be turned off by Broun's history of controversial statements.
Price also spoke at CPAC on Thursday, on a panel about the "Europeanization of America." He did not reference the Senate race during his remarks, but told On Call that he is "absolutely" interested and will make a decision about the race after the House wraps up its discussion of the budget in May. Price is the vice chairman of the House Budget Committee.