ABC News’ Rick Klein Reports: Forget Iowa. The first round in the battle for 2012 is looking like it will be fought out in Georgia — and much, much sooner rather than later.
With the Senate race in Georgia headed for a run-off, Sen. Saxby Chambliss’ campaign has been in touch with a fleet of prominent Republicans — including Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, Newt Gingrich, and Rudy Giuliani — to have them campaign for the senator’s reelection over the next four weeks.
“We’re bringing in all the superstars,” said Michelle Grasso, the Chambliss campaign’s communications director. “We’re in the process of reaching out to everyone. And it’s not just us reaching out, people are contacting us to ask how they can be helpful.”
Chambliss, R-Ga., announced Friday that Sen. John McCain will campaign for him during the run-off period, though no date has been set for his appearance.
None of the 2012 prospects have been locked in for campaign events yet, but Grasso said she expects several national party leaders to campaign for Chambliss. The campaign has also been in touch with Sen. John Ensign, the chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, about a possible campaign appearance, she said.
A run-off will be held Dec. 2 between Chambliss and Democrat Jim Martin if neither man secures more than 50 percent of the vote. The latest tallies have Chambliss having won 49.8 percent, to Martin’s 46.8 percent.
One Republican operative with ties to Chambliss said that with the Democrats controlling at least 57 seats in the new Senate, any Republican who wants to be in the mix for 2012 will want to stop by Georgia.
“It’s the first move on the chessboard for 2012,” he said.
Romney spokesman Eric Fehrnstrom said the former Massachusetts governor is happy to help any way he can.
“We are now talking with his campaign about how we can be of further help in the run-off,” Fehrnstrom said.
Even without a formal declaration by the state that a run-off is imminent, national groups have begun to get involved in the race. The independent group Freedom’s Watch is already running television ads on Chambliss’ behalf, and the Democratic Senatorical Campaign Committee is also likely to run ads there, according to a Democratic official.
The race could be viewed as an early field test of the Obama political operation. Obama appeared in radio ads for Martin during the campaign, and while Obama lost Georgia, Martin’s campaign is building off of the ground operation his team put into place during the election.
Martin has invited Obama to campaign in Georgia during the probable run-off.
“We’d be honored to have him, of course,” said Kate Hansen, a Martin campaign spokeswoman. “We’ve reached out to the Obama campaign, and we’re waiting to hear. Obviously he’s only been president-elect Obama for a few days, so we’ll give him some time.”