With Senator Saxby Chambliss deciding this morning that two terms will be enough, Georgia’s political landscape will now focus on the rare opportunity to have an open shot at the world’s most exclusive club. It’s enough to stoke the inner wants of all who have unbridled ambition, and the consulting class will pick up the pace of whispering in the ears of those who have ambition about how they can be made king, if they just sign on for a small retainer (plus cut of direct mail, media buys, fundraising….)
Let’s take a quick look at who is likely to run, and who isn’t, by group:
Those whose trial balloons were already floated:
Tom Price: Metro Atlanta fundraising base, overtures to TEA Party over the last year have been well received, but won’t be the choice of Governor Deal who will have a statewide campaign going on at the same time. Verdict: Wouldn’t be surprised to see an announcement today.
Paul Broun: Has been waiting for God to tell him if he needs to run. May be the only person alive that would confuse Joel McElhannon’s voice with God’s. Verdict: Science is based on lies from the pit of hell. Therefore, you pick your own process that determines if he says “run” or “I like my eggs slightly runny in the middle”.
Karen Handel: Could have made things interesting in a primary challenge format. Now, likely to cede the way to the number of currently elected officials that will throw their hat in. I would expect that Tom Price’s seat would look attractive should he make a move toward the Senate.
The Other Georgia Congressmen:
Jack Kingston: In Republican Leadership and has powerful appropriations post. Without changing his views or votes, has moved from being one of Georgia’s most conservative Congressmen to one the TEA Party voters are now suspicious of (see that previously referenced appropriations post). Gut says he could be competitive but is comfortable in his current role.
Lynn Westmoreland: Would call him the front runner if he wants it. Popular in much of the state, balances the line between “establishment” and “Tea Party” very well. Very close to Governor Deal, and could have synergy between campaigns. Also seems to enjoy position in House and role with NRCC. Not sure Senate is really what he wants. His call, we’ll wait.
Rob Woodall: Hasn’t made much move to a statewide since being elected last year. I don’t expect him to make this move.
Austin Scott: Austin really enjoyed his statewide campaign for Governor before moving to his Congressional campaign. He’s president of the Tea Party class of 2010. Seems to have taken to Washington well. I don’t rule him out, but would probably only be considered if others decide to pass. If he runs, keep an eye on him.
Doug Collins: He’s barely unpacked his office, so smart money would say “no”. But he’s the Governor (and Lt. Governor’s) Congressman, and could again possibly have access to the Hall County political machine. Stranger things have happened, and he would probably sell in a statewide primary.
Phil Gingrey: Was many people’s speculative front runner during the whispers leading up to the end of the year on this race. Recent comments didn’t help him – and in a Republican primary it was the one on limiting the size of gun magazines that hurt more. I’m thinking he doesn’t go for it, but if he does, he’s got a following.
Tom Graves: Graves does media very well and is a TEA Party darling. If Broun decides not to run, Graves will likely get a lot of pressure from that base. Still, Graves is fairly safe where he is. This move for him would have to be a very calculated risk.
Casey Cagle: Just got most of his control back over the State Senate. Is believed to have his eyes on the Governor’s mansion in 5 years. I’d say doubtful.
Brian Kemp: He’s still amazed that he’s only Secretary of State, has built a full time campaign organization among his inner staff. Probably doesn’t have the patience to wait to use it for 2018. He’ll seriously think about it. Any good celebrity should.
Sam Olens: Also believed to be looking at moving up in 2018. Have a bit more patience and strategic vision than most also looking. I expect he’ll keep doing what he’s doing – and doing it well.
Honorable Mentions and Wild Cards:
Bob Barr: His people are wasting no time in getting his name out there. Expect him to at least very publicly consider this race, if not go ahead and announce.
Erick Erickson: Erick also floated his name earlier before saying no. He had a better path as a primary challenger, and I don’t expect him to revisit this.
Chris Riley: The Governor’s Chief of Staff, a few occasionally throw his name out there as someone that wants to move up. As an integral part of Deal’s machine, I wouldn’t expect him to make a jump to the highest level of statewide office on his first run when there’s still work to be done with the Governor.
Former Governor Sonny Perdue: Also a name mentioned, I think he’s busy with Perdue Partners.
And the Democrats:
Most Democrats I talk to hold out hope that some combination of Senator Jason Carter and Mayor Kasim Reed will eventually return them to statewide competitiveness. When it looked like this could be a Broun-Chambliss primary, many were pressuring for an A-list candidate for this race. Now that there will be an open primary and likely a competitive field, I would say it’s less likely that either risk a race for what can likely be theirs a couple cycles down the road.
Instead, other names floated this morning by a few folks include Max Cleland and Shirley Franklin.
OK, as this is clearly a running story, I’ll reserve the right to add a few more, and I’ll just put them all down here for any of you who may be checking back:
Newt Gingrich: I actually did think about adding him, but decided that it wouldn’t be a serious add. He frankly needs to make some money and I’m not even he would think the Senate would be a good fit for him. Still, the AJC’s Daniel Malloy is reporting that he will make a statement about the race after speaking with his wife. He’s apparently on a plane back to DC at the moment, says twitter. So…? – additional update, Malloy now reports spokesperson says Newt is out.
John Barrow: One Democrat is telling me he expects others in the party to make a strong push for him to reconsider what he’s already flatly said won’t happen. I argue that the Dems have the same purity problem as Republicans, and many within the party (and leadership) wont’ back someone who won’t vote for Nancy Pelosi or accept the entire Democratic Agenda as-is. Other downside is if he runs, GA-12 is a virtual certainty to turn Republican.
David Adelman: With titles of Ambassador and State Senator on his resume, he would have credibility for Democrats trying to find someone who could sell statewide without sacrificing someone on the bench that they want when the state is more competitive. It’s an intriguing add from one of our commenters below.