ATLANTA (AP) - Saxby Chambliss has the power of incumbency. A well-stocked warchest. And a reliably Republican state to run in.
But he said he isn't taking anything for granted as he seeks a second term in the U.S. Senate.
'We are going to campaign like we are 20 points behind everyday,' Chambliss told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
'This is going to be a tough race. I don't care who the Democrat is.'
Chambliss is set to formally announce his re-election bid at a rally in his hometown of Moultrie on Monday. It'll be the first of several stops around the state.
The landscape has changed since Chambliss first won his seat in 2002. Excitement is high in the wide-open presidential contest. And President Bush - who Chambliss has backed consistently - is wallowing in low approval ratings.
Five Democrats have already lined up to challenge the Georgia senator but they lack statewide name recognition and campaign dollars. The best-known is Vernon Jones, CEO of DeKalb County.
Television journalist Dale Cardwell, ecologist Rand Knight, businessman Josh Lanier and teacher Maggie Martinez have also said they are in the race. Former state lawmaker and Department of Human Resources Commissioner Jim Martin, who lost a 2006 bid for lieutenant governor, is also being lobbied by party insiders to jump in.
None have come close to raising the $4.4 million Chambliss has in the bank, according to the most recent campaign filing.
Still, a spokesman with the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, says Chambliss is in their sites this November. Matthew Miller said the party's research in Georgia suggests he is vulnerable although he won't say if the party will pour money into the state.
'The Democrats nationally have an awful lot of money and they are committed to defeating me,' Chambliss said.
Some Democrats nurse a grudge against Chambliss for unseating Max Cleland, a triple amputee and Vietnam veteran, with the help of a tough television ad that questioned Cleland's commitment to national security.
A former chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee when the Republicans ruled the Senate, Chambliss has a loyal following among rural Georgia farmers. In Washington, he has earned a reputation as a loyal GOP soldier.
He told The AP that his support for tax cuts designed to stimulate the economy would be central to his re-election strategy. So would his support for national security.
'These are issues Georgians care about,' Chambliss said.
And he suggested that health care would be a critical topic as well. He is co-sponsoring a bill that would provide patients tax breaks to purchase their own insurance.
Chambliss said Republicans' free-market approach provides a strong counterpoint to Democrats, who are pushing hard for universal health care.
'This election will ask what should our national approach to health care be,' Chambliss said.
If there is thorny topic for Chambliss with the state's conservative base it is immigration. He initially supported Bush's immigration bill that provided a pathway to citizenship. Critics likened it to amnesty and Chambliss was booed by Republican faithful at the state party convention when he defended a temporary guest worker provision in the bill.
He later withdrew his support and has engaged in tough talk on the told since then. But his endorsement of John McCain, one of the authors of the compromise immigration bill, in the presidential contest revived the issue again last month.
Chambliss told the AP that he did not think the issue will hurt him in November.
'I don't think that Georgians have any questions on where I am relative to immigration,' Chambliss said. 'The No. 1 issue is border security.'
But he did allow that he was 'surprised by the intensity of the emotion' on the issue.
Saxby Chambliss for U.S. Senate: www.saxby.org