Rep. John BarrowDemocrats’ lofty aspirations of clinching Georgia’s open Senate seat next year took a dive Tuesday as the party’s top possible recruit made the surprise announcement he would forgo the race and focus instead on reelection to the House.

U.S. Rep. John Barrow, the blue dog with an A-rating from the NRA who has been on a listening tour throughout the state for the last two months as he weighed the potential bid, said he would rather remain in the House.

“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 provide to Tipsheet. “I enjoy my work on behalf of the folks in the 12th District, and I look forward to continuing to serve them in the House of Representatives.”

Well-placed Democrats with whom Tipsheet spoke after the Barrow announcement say the congressman’s decision was motivated in part by the refusal of another possible candidate, Michelle Nunn, to forswear the race.

“Nunn’s insistence on running, despite calls from top party officials for her to sit this one out, moves the GA Senate race way down the list of pick-up opportunities,” one Democrat said.

When Nunn, whose father, former Sen. Sam Nunn, once held the seat at stake next year, expressed interest in the race, top party officials began quietly working to instead anoint Barrow as the consensus Democratic candidate.

Hoping to avoid a costly and divisive primary, party elders even arranged a private rendezvous between the two would-be candidates.

That meeting never took place, according to a Democrat with knowledge of the situation, and Nunn, buoyed by more progressive elements of the party, could not be dissuaded from running.

– James Richardson