Georgia Republicans have waited with baited breath to see if State Rep. Jerry Keen would enter the Republican primary for Lt. Gov. Keen, like Reed, is a former Christian Coalition State Chairman, is very respected, is friends with Ralph Reed, but does not have some of the baggage Reed has. Reed is running, as are current State Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine and Sate Senator Casey Cagle.

The AJC reports that Keen has decided not to run. He and Reed are very good friends and conservatives did not relish having to choose between Reed, who they credit with the Republican take over of Georgia’s government, and Keen, who is a well respected leader of the Republican conservative movement in Georgia.

Reed, rumor has it, has commitments for $5 million and allegedly already has tied up the support of most of Bush’s fundraising machine, including heavy weights like Ben Henson of Macon, one of Bush’s lead money raisers in the State. With that fundraising base, Reed should be able to bulldoze over Cagle, who is seen as more of a “country club” Republican allied with State Senator David Shafer, who lost to Reed in the State GOP Chairman’s race in 2000.

The conventional wisdom is that if Reed could beat Shafer among the grassroots for the State Party chairmanship, he should be able to beat Cagle among the opinion leaders in the state party who will drive the race. But, Reed is a political consultant and, as Bill Shipp (a state political journalist) has pointed out, being a political consultant who runs for office is like being a brain surgeon who operates on himself. Not to mention, Reed has baggage and, like Reed, David Shafer, who thus far appears to be supporting Cagle, can be ruthless with opponents (luckily I like Reed and Shafer both and hope to stay out of their way).

This intraparty battle will probably be the most interesting primary battle in the State of Georgia for 2006, and one of the most interesting in the nation. If Reed can get elected, it is widely expected he’d like to rebuild his national image and eventually set his sights on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

UPDATE: Senator Shafer emailed me to say he is actually supporting John Oxendine in the Lt. Gov.’s race.