Politics

Isakson: 'Perfect Storm' Could Flip Senate Seat #GASEN

Isakson said a "perfect storm" could put the Georgia Senate seat in play. (Chris Maddaloni/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., said the mixture of a trending-purple state and a bloody GOP primary could hinder the party's ability next year to hold the Georgia Senate seat of his retiring colleague.

"It should be a Republican seat, but there's a perfect storm that could happen that could make that challenging," said Isakson when he was asked about the race Wednesday at the annual tax, budget and health care policy seminar hosted by BakerHostetler.

The seat of retiring Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., has so far enticed three members of Congress, a wealthy businessman and a former Georgia secretary of state to vie for the GOP nomination. Meanwhile, Democrats are coalescing around Michelle Nunn, the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn, D-Ga., and head of the nonprofit Points of Light Foundation.

Earlier this month, CQ Roll Call reported that the Senate race is shaping up to host a test case for Democrats intent on one day making Georgia routinely competitive in statewide races. While Republicans remain especially skeptical that can happen as early as 2014, Georgia still presents Senate Democrats with their best opportunity to pick up a seat so far this cycle.

Isakson maintained that the seat "will probably be Republican," but the margins of the party's "overwhelming" victories in the past decade in legislative and congressional races have grown closer over time. He noted that "Georgia was one of the few Southern states that Romney didn't carry by double digits."

"So if the Republican party were to make a mistake in its nominating process, as happened in a couple of states in the last cycle," Isakson said, "then you run the risk of the Democrats having an unchallenged quality opponent in their primary and a bloody Republican — beaten up by other Republicans as well as Harry Reid — coming into a race where they are behind in money."