"I have no doubt that had I decided to be a candidate, I would have won re-election," Chambliss said in his statement. "Instead, this is about frustration, both at a lack of leadership from the White House and at the dearth of meaningful action from Congress, especially on issues that are the foundation of our nation's economic health."
National tea party leader and Georgia resident Amy Kremer celebrated Chambliss's departure. "Many people in the tea party movement here in Georgia felt Chambliss was tired and unwilling to fight the difficult battles to control government spending in Washington without increasing our nation's tax burden," she said.
Several Republicans acknowledged the potential of a divisive fight pitting tea party-aligned candidates — someone like Broun or Gingrey — against more establishment conservatives, like Kingston. Several Republicans said Price could appeal to both camps.
A Price spokeswoman said her boss "is speaking with a number of folks ... and listening to their observations and advice." Gingrey focused his remarks Friday on Chambliss. Broun's office did not respond to a request for comment.
A Handel spokesman declined comment. With the backing of Sarah Palin, Handel proved a formidable statewide candidate in her 2010 bid for governor, narrowly losing a Republican primary runoff to eventual winner Nathan Deal, a former congressman. A Deal spokesman said he plans to seek re-election in 2014.
Brantley, the Perdue confidant, said he had not talked with his former boss Friday about the race.
Republicans said Friday that the potential candidates will spend the next few weeks running a quiet campaign among donors and power players before making a decision.
Georgia Democratic Party Chairman Mike Berlon, meanwhile, said Democrats "want to get the right candidate and line up behind him or her in the next few weeks." Neither Barrow nor Reed tipped their hands.
In 2012, Barrow withstood a Republican redistricting plan to win another term as the last white Democrat representing a Deep South state in the U.S. House. Should he run for the Senate, he'd almost certainly hand the 12th District seat to the GOP.
Barrow benefited last fall from a nasty GOP primary that yielded a conservative candidate with little money, the kind of scenario Democrats would love to see repeated in a Senate race.
Berlon called Atlanta's Reed "a rising star who has the talent to play at the national level." Reed, a prominent campaign surrogate for the White House last fall, appears poised to coast to victory in his mayoral re-election bid this year.
Sen. Johnny Isakson, who will become Georgia's senior senator when Chambliss retires, deferred any talk of 2014. "Saxby has been my friend for 50 years, since we started at the University of Georgia," he said. "I'm going to miss my friend. ... I won't get into predicting elections. I've learned that Georgia voters usually make the right decision, so I'll leave it to them."
Associated Press writer Donna Cassata in Washington, D.C., contributed to this report.
Follow Barrow on Twitter (at)BillBarrowAP.