Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., is calling and emailing Peach State Republicans, letting them know that he is running for Sen. Saxby Chambliss' seat, according to several Republican strategists.
"I have had two people now confirm to me that Phil Gingrey is now making phone calls," Republican strategist Tom Perdue, who has long advised Chambliss, said in a phone interview.
The Hill reported yesterday that Gingrey made the announcement on a conference call with 12 Republicans, citing Perdue. But Perdue said that he was the one on a conference call unrelated to the race, when a fellow Republican strategist said that Gingrey had called to say that he is running for the seat. Another Republican chimed in saying he had gotten the same call, Perdue said, adding that Gingrey will probably announce next week.
Additionally, a national Republican pollster also emailed Hotline On Call to say that she had seen a personal email from the congressman announcing that he is running for the Senate and that he will make it official sometime within the next two weeks.
Gingrey's spokeswoman, Jen Talaber, initially denied that such an email existed. When later asked about the phone calls and the timeline on his decision, Talaber said only that Gingrey continues to "seriously consider" a bid and that "rumors of an imminent announcement or a timetable are untrue."
Gingrey enters the race with nearly $2 million in the bank, more than any of the other potential candidates. But Gingrey's candidacy isn't without its potential pitfalls. Just last month, he said that then-Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., was "partly right" when he said that a woman's body could shut down a pregnancy resulting from rape. Gingrey will also be 72 on Election Day 2014 and is the oldest of the candidates considering a bid.
Perdue also questioned Gingrey's commitment to reducing spending. "He's no more fiscally conservative than Barack Obama," he said.
Gingrey would be the second Republican to enter the race, following Rep. Paul Broun's announcement earlier this month. They are likely to be followed by fellow Rep. Jack Kingston, who told a group of Republicans in Forsyth County last week that he will run for the seat as well, but later clarified that his campaign is not yet official, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Georgia Republican pollster Mark Rountree, who was in the room, confirmed the announcement. "He said 'yes, I'm running, I just haven't announced yet,'" Rountree said.
Rep. Tom Price, who is also considering a bid, has said that he won't make a decision about the race until May, leading some Republicans to speculate that he may take a pass altogether. But, says Republican consultant Joel McElhannon, Price is almost certainly going to run after he wraps up work on the budget. "I think he thinks he looks better quote-unquote doing his job. ... He's aggressively raising money. I think a lot of the talk of him backing off" is coming from the other candidates, McElhannon said.
Broun, meanwhile, has taken full advantage of his early entry into the contest and is fundraising aggressively. Perdue said he has already received two direct mailings at his home and a phone call from Broun's campaign. But McElhannon warned that despite Broun's efforts, "historically he's not been a great fundraiser."
Still, McElhannon said, Broun could be in for some help should Price take a pass on the race. "I think the dynamic here is Tom Price, if he gets in, which I think he will ... I think it freezes the Club for Growth, I think it freezes FreedomWorks," he said. But, if not, Broun would be "the only candidate that fits their mold."
Other Republicans taking a look at the race include former Secretary of State Karen Handel and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Several Republicans have said that Cagle is unlikely to get into the race, and Handel won't run against Price, both because the two have a close, personal relationship and because they share the same base of support. Should he mount a Senate bid, she will likely run for his House seat.
Handel lost the Republican primary for governor to then-Rep. Nathan Deal in 2010, largely because of questions about her commitment to social issues. But her recent high-profile resignation from the Susan G. Komen foundation over its funding for Planned Parenthood has brought an end to those concerns, McElhannon said. "She's a game changer. She'll get in a runoff. If she gets in the race, she'll get in a runoff," he added.
Businessman Frank Hanna and Tom Bell are also being mentioned for the seat. Both have deep ties to Republicans in the state and could bring a lot of money to the table.