Sen. Saxby Chambliss to Retire Ahead of Tough 2014 Primary

(Image Credit: Cliff Owen/AP Photo)

ABC News' Sunlen Miller and Sarah Parnass report:

Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R- Ga., likely facing a formidable primary challenge from the right, announced this morning that he is retiring and won't run for reelection in 2014.

In a statement Chambliss slammed "legislative gridlock and partisan posturing," saying he does not see the climate on Capitol Hill improving any time soon.

"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," the senator wrote. "The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 and the recent fiscal-cliff vote showed Congress at its worst and, sadly, I don't see the legislative gridlock and partisan posturing improving anytime soon."

Chambliss would likely have faced a tough primary challenge in 2014.

During the recent standoff over the fiscal cliff, he famously was one of the few Republicans who spoke publicly about believing that his hands were not tied by anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist tax pledge.

Tea Party Express Chair Amy Kremer targeted Chambliss on CNN after his vote in favor of the fiscal cliff deal.

"It's unacceptable to have somebody who votes with the Democrats more than they do with the conservatives, and he has proven time and time again he is all about the spending," Kremer told CNN earlier this month. " We're a red state, we deserve a conservative senator."

Polling groups had already begun to examine Chambliss' chances in 2014 before the end of 2012, with one group claiming he would be "very vulnerable" to hypothetical primary challengers like Herman Cain.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee released an optimistic statement in light of Chambliss' stepping down.

""Georgia will now offer Democrats one of our best pick-up opportunities of the cycle," said Guy Cecil, DSCC executive director. "There are already several reports of the potential for a divisive primary that will push Republicans to the extreme right. Regardless, there's no question that the demographics of the state have changed and Democrats are gaining strength. This will be a top priority."

The senator was a part of the so-called "Gang of Six," a bipartisan group of senators who were always working behind the scenes during the supercommittee negotiations, the debt ceiling debate and the fiscal cliff talks, toward finding a long-term deficit reduction plan. In May of that year, Chambliss found himself facing some unseasonably cold shoulders in Atlanta after his participation on that committee.

Chambliss, the senior Senator from Georgia was elected into the Senate in 2002, after previously serving in the House of Representatives since 1995.

The senator will depart at the end of his current term.

National Republican Senatorial Committee Chair Jerry Moran thanked Chambliss for his service in a statement today.

"What doesn't change with today's announcement is the reality that the Democrats have a very uphill battle to try wresting this seat from Republican hands," Moran, R-Kan., promised. "Georgia is a red state that rejected President Obama and his liberal agenda by almost 10 points last November. While we take no race for granted, I look forward to the debate between a Republican candidate who believes in reining-in wasteful Washington spending, growing jobs and protecting the Second Amendment, versus a liberal Democrat who will be a loyal rubber-stamp for President Obama in Washington."

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will not be trying to take Chambliss' place in the upcoming race, according to a tweet from his spokesman.