A new, million-dollar GOP force in a wide-open Senate race

No Republican front-runner has yet emerged in the crowded race for the open U.S. Senate seat. But Georgia Republicans clearly have their eye on November.

A new group called the Senate Battleground Fund held its first fundraiser Sunday evening, and it was a big one. The event featured ex-GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Republican National Committee chair Reince Priebus at the Buckhead home of Jeff Sprecher and Kelly Loeffler, the power couple

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Organizers say the more than $1 million the fund raised, plus takings from other planned events, will be used to boost the eventual GOP nominee - whoever he or she may be.

"It's important that Republicans hold on to the Senate seat in Georgia as we look to a year where Republicans have a good chance at taking the Senate majority," said Eric Tanenblatt, the well-known GOP insider who helped organize the event with Fred Cooper. "And the fact that Gov. Romney and Chairman Priebus joined Sens. Johnny Isakson and Saxby Chambliss at this event, it shows the importance and significance of the Georgia race to winning a Senate majority."

Republicans need to pick up six seats to control the Senate, but losing a GOP-held seat in Georgia would be a blow to their efforts. The group is a joint fundraising committee between the RNC and the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and we're told both groups will likely divvy up the funds to back the GOP nominee and target Democratic frontrunner Michelle Nunn. The invite also said the money will be used to support get-out-the-vote efforts and voter registration to drive turnout.

On the invitation below, note the minimum $10,000 donation for the reception and $25,000 give to attend the gala. That high price tag was meant to zero in on the big fish, and avoid competing with the fundraising efforts of the five best-known GOP candidates: Reps. Jack Kingston, Paul Broun and Phil Gingrey; former Secretary of State Karen Handel; and businessman David Perdue. We're told none of the candidates, by the way, were at the shindig.

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