Rep. John Barrow (D-Ga.) announced Tuesday he won't run for the Senate in Georgia, dealing a major blow to Democrats' hopes of picking up the seat.
"I'm grateful for the encouragement I've received from folks all across the State of Georgia, but I've decided that I will not be a candidate for the Senate in 2014," Barrow said in a statement.
The longtime congressman had been mulling a bid for the seat since Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) announced his retirement, months ago.
Barrow would likely have been Democrats' best chance at picking up the seat.
He has one of the most conservative voting records of any House Democrat and has proven to be a tough campaigner over the years, winning reelection last year in a district GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried by 12 percentage points.
Democrats are still hopeful they could have a shot at the seat.
“The divisive Republican primary is certain to produce a nominee that is too extreme for mainstream Georgians,” Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Matt Canter said in a statement.
“We are confident we will have a strong candidate that will excite Democrats and provide independents and moderate Republicans with a strong, reasonable alternative to the extremism from Republicans.”
Businesswoman Michelle Nunn (D), the daughter of former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), has been mulling a run as well. But she’s never run for office before and is completely untested as a candidate.
Barrow's proven ability to win in GOP-leaning seats would have given his party a big boost in the race.
Republicans crowed about the news.
"Barrow's decision is the biggest recruiting failure of the 2014 cycle and ensures that Republicans are on offense across the map,” National Republican Senatorial Committee spokesman Brad Dayspring said in a statement.
“Democrats in Washington threw everything at Barrow, who realized the seat is unwinnable and left the Democratic National Senatorial Committee standing at the altar. Republicans have a strong field of energetic candidates that represent Georgia values and will win in 2014.”
Some national Republicans had been nervous about Barrow as a Senate candidate — and that their own crowded primary field could produce a flawed general election opponent.
Reps. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), Phil Gingrey (R-Ga.) and Paul Broun (R-Ga.) are already in the race.
Both Gingrey and Broun have a history of making gaffes and controversial statements that concern some national GOP strategists, and while Kingston has been posting huge fundraising numbers, he’s not loved by GOP base activists in the state.
Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) is also considering a run and has said he’ll decide this month — if Price doesn’t run, it’s likely his friend, former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel (R), will seek the GOP nomination.
Wealthy businessman David Perdue (R), the cousin of former Gov. Sonny Perdue (R), is also expected to run.
If Barrow's decision is a loss for the DSCC, it's a big boost for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He'll be tough to beat in his House seat, and if he'd run for the Senate, the seat would have been a likely pickup for Republicans.