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The 2014 Georgia U.S. Senate race is going to be one of the most entertaining Senate races to watch.  Especially with the soon-to-be crowded GOP primary that's about to take place:

After losing a Senate race in Missouri that most analysts think they should have won last year, Republicans are trying everything to avoid a repeat in 2014. They're even attempting to get involved early in the primary process to make sure that ultra-conservative candidates like former Rep. Todd Akin (R) don't emerge as nominees.

But candidates in Georgia aren't making it easy.

Roll Call reports that two likely U.S. Senate candidates in Georgia — Reps. Paul Broun (R-Ga.) and Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) — were among just 10 Republicans to vote against the House budget today.

Broun told the Atlanta Journal Constitution that the proposal was "insufficiently conservative" — even though he voted for a similar budget proposal two years ago. - Te Week, 3/21/13

Congressmen Tom Price and Jack Kingston are also potential candidates in the race to succeed retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss (R. GA).  Plus this woman is also getting closer to deciding if she's in or out:

Former Georgia Secretary of State and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Karen Handel is now exploring entering the U.S. Senate race to replace Saxby Chambliss as an active possibility.  Handel has been mostly quiet since Chambliss’ surprise retirement announcement, while allowing conventional wisdom to linger that she would seek the 6th District Congressional Seat presumably to be vacated by Tom Price.

Price has since delayed an official announcement until May, while others sizing up the race have either announced (Paul Broun) or have retained staff and begun initial fundraising efforts (Gingrey, Kingston).  Handel, now seeing the real possibility that Price may opt out, is beginning the process of checking with supporters and sizing up initial donor support.

Handel would start with an initial fundraising deficit to the members of Congress who have been able to raise campaign cash in their existing Congressional campaign accounts.  But she also starts with the advantage of having run a recent statewide campaign with a grassroots base in tact as well as national name ID from her time with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. - Peach Pundit, 3/21/13

So we know the Republicans have a big bench full of nuts but where does that leave the Democrats?  This is an amazing opportunity to help a dormant Democratic Party in Georgia make a big comeback.  Well one candidate who has long been speculated to run is finally opening the door to the idea:

As the end of the first quarter approaches, Georgia is shaping up to be ground zero for the most congressional turnover in the 2014 cycle. No other open Senate seat so far this cycle has produced as much jockeying among the House delegation as in the Peach State, where as many as five members could be poised to run statewide.

GOP Reps. Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston appear poised to soon announce bids for the state’s open Senate seat, joining Rep. Paul Broun, who has already declared.

Republican Rep. Tom Price has reportedly met with the National Republican Senatorial Committee this week. Price has said he will not make a decision on a bid until May. On the Democratic side, Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow opened the door —  widely — to a Senate run. - Roll Call, 3/21/13

For a while, Barrow had remained coy about running for the open seat but this week, he left the door wide open to the possibility:

With an email invitation to his biggest supporters, U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Savannah, has raised the possibility that he’ll enter the 2014 contest to replace U.S. Sen. Saxby Chambliss.

Here’s how the message begins:

    “The more things change, the more they stay the same – unfortunately.  Despite this past November’s election, gridlock continues to grip Washington and working men and women in our country continue to pay the price.  There are fewer and fewer moderates like me in Congress, and that makes it all the more important that we work together to keep our country moving forward.”

The Democratic congressman then invites the recipients to join him and “a small group of friends and supporters” for lunch at one of two Atlanta law firms on March 27 and 28, “for a candid conversation about the challenges that we face as a state and nation.”

The kicker:

    "We’ll also discuss the political challenges that face us in the 12th District and Georgia.  Some have suggested that I run for the United States Senate to replace the retiring Senator Saxby Chambliss, and I would appreciate your thoughts as I give this serious consideration.  

    "I’ve asked my top campaign advisors to present to you how we believe the next few years will unfold politically, and how we can meet the challenges ahead." - Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3/20/13

Ok, I can hear the groaning about a Barrow candidacy.  I don't blame you for not being thrilled about a Barrow for Senate campaign, especially after making stupid votes like this:

They had a vote today in the House of Representatives on whether or not to raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 by 2015. All the Republicans voted against it. Every single one. But six Democrats also voted against it. Here are their names:

John Barrow- (Georgia- 12th District)
Jim Matheson- (Utah- 4th District)
Mike McIntyre (North Carolina- 7th District)
Bill Owens- (New York- 21st District)
Colin Peterson- (Minnesota- 7th District)
Kurt Schrader- (Oregon- 5th District)

All six of them represent conservative districts. None of their votes made any difference to the outcome. But I'd still like to understand their motivation for voting against the hike in the minimum wage. Did they want to pad their moderate voting records? Did they want to avoid needlessly annoying business interests in their districts? Did they hope to win or maintain business support? Are they genuine assholes who truly share Republican values? - Booman Tribune, 3/15/13

And of course he made campaign ads like this one to help him win a tough re-election in 2012:

Sad to say the ad worked:

This was supposed to be the year white Democrats from the Deep South officially went extinct. After redistricting, Barrow, a 57-year-old Georgia Blue Dog, found himself in a district that gave 56 percent of the vote to John McCain in 2008—despite record African American turnout that year. But Barrow outspent his Republican challenger, state Rep. Lee Anderson, by a more than 2-1 margin, and managed to put together a patchwork coalition of black voters and white gun-owners (he's a rare Democrat with NRA backing). - Mother Jones, 11/6/12
I'm not completely surprised that Barrow now has a change of heart about running for the Senate.  The NRCC was already planning to make him a top target in 2014:

John Stone, a top House Republican aide, will mount a bid against Rep. John Barrow, D-Ga., in 2014.

“Get ready, Mr. Barrow,” Stone confirmed in an interview today with CQ Roll Call.

A number of candidates have been eying the race against Barrow, a longtime Republican target who represents a district that voted for Mitt Romney in November. But Stone appears to be the first to decide on a run.

Stone lost the seat to Barrow by more than 30 points in 2008. Stone, now chief of staff to Rep. John Carter, R-Texas, said he will resign his Capitol Hill position this summer to make a second run against the five-term congressman.

The district has changed since Stone’s last attempt. Republicans redrew the 12th District boundaries following redistricting, making it a more GOP-friendly seat.

But Barrow defeated state Rep. Lee Anderson, a Republican, by more than seven points in a heavily targeted race in 2012. This cycle, the National Republican Congressional Committee has already indicated he is one of its top seven targets.

This time around, Stone hopes to have more resources from the NRCC and a higher-profile consulting team than his first run. - Roll Call, 2/15/13

Plus, there's already someone on Team Blue looking to run for Barrow's congressional seat if he does decide to run for Senate:
We’ve come upon what may be the first real evidence that U.S. Rep. John Barrow, D-Augusta, may allow himself to be persuaded to run for that vacant U.S. Senate seat next year.

We’re told that Ed Tarver, the former Democratic state senator and now U.S. attorney for Georgia’s Southern District, has let friends know that he would be interested in running for Barrow’s 12th District seat.

That kind of contingency planning generally doesn’t happen unless the scouting party has been sent a quiet signal. - Atlanta Journal Constitution, 3/5/13

With Atlanta Mayor Kassim Reed (D) already planning to run for a second term and big names like former Senator Max Cleland (D) and young and up-and-coming state Senators Jason Carter (D) & Scott Holcomb (D) showing no interest in running, looks like Barrow might be the only choice we might have.  He certainly fits the description for what we might need in Democratic candidate running in deep red Southern state like Georgia:
Chambliss' cross over appeal to Democrats would make him hard to defeat in a general election. But given the very real possibility of him losing to an extreme conservative candidate in the primary it might benefit Democrats to get a Joe Donnelly caliber candidate who doesn't have a lot to lose into the race, just in case... - PPP, 12/4/12
Not to mention, Barrow actually makes this race competitive:

Democratic prospects for winning the seat might not hinge on what could be an unlikely Cleland candidacy though. John Barrow trails by an average of only 4/10ths of a point against the Republicans we tested- leading Gingrey and Handel by 1, tying Broun, trailing Price by 1, and trailing Kingston by 3. Carter trails the quintet of Republicans we tested by an average of 3.8 points- he's down 2 to Broun and Gingrey, 4 to Handel, 5 to Price, and 6 to Kingston.

Obviously it's been 13 years since Democrats won a major election in Georgia, but the closeness of these early numbers suggest that if they nominate a strong candidate and Republicans end up going with someone too far to the right there's at least some chance that they could pull off an upset. In an election cycle with few opportunities for offense it's one of the better ones the Democrats have.

It's hard to say much about the Republican contest for Senate right now other than that it's a complete tossup. We tested 7 potential candidates and 6 of them all clustered between 10 and 15% in our polling- Handel and Kingston get 15%, Casey Cagle comes in at 13%, Gingrey gets 12%, Broun 11%, Price 10%, and Tom Graves 3%. The plurality goes to undecided at 20%. - PPP, 2/19/13

A crowded and ugly primary with Tea Party nut jobs versus establishment Republicans would certainly be a big benefit for Barrow.

I'm not thrilled about a possible Barrow candidacy but I can't stomach another Tea Party nut job in the Senate.  Plus I do love beating Republicans on their home turf.  Hopefully some other and better Democratic candidates will pop up but for now, it looks like it's Barrow's time to shine.  And if Barrow can win this race, it will certainly help push Georgia in the toss up category for the 2016 Presidential Election.  Plus Senator Johnny Isakson (R. GA) will be up for re-election and maybe Reed, Holcomb or Carter will be in better positions to take him out.

Originally posted to pdc on Fri Mar 22, 2013 at 08:00 AM PDT.

Also republished by Kos Georgia.

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