(CNN) - Take a famous name, a state with changing demographics and a GOP-controlled seat that Republicans can't lose next year if they want to reclaim control of the U.S. Senate.
Those ingredients add up to the likelihood of a high-stakes, fiercely contested and expensive race for an open seat in Georgia.
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Democrat Michelle Nunn formally announced her candidacy Tuesday, telling supporters in an email that, "I am filing papers to launch a campaign for the U.S. Senate."
Her entrance into the race could make the Georgia contest one of the crucial races in the 2014 battle for control of the Senate.
Nunn, the chief executive of the volunteer organization Points of Light, is the daughter of Sam Nunn, who represented Georgia for 24 years in the Senate and was known as a moderate Democrat with strong foreign policy and national security credentials.
While Georgia's Latino and black populations – traditional Democratic blocs - are increasing, it's still a red state. It remained comfortably in the GOP camp in last year's presidential election and the party currently controls all of its statewide offices.
So it shouldn't be a surprise that Nunn highlighted her work with former Republican president George H.W. Bush. And in her statement she touted her father's bipartisan efforts in the Senate, saying, "My father was an independent-minded statesman who accomplished an enormous amount by working with others to solve problems and keep our country safe. He's someone I continue to learn from every day."
Although dropping her father's famous name will open some doors, Nunn is a first-time politician, unproven on the campaign trail. But after moderate Democratic U.S. Rep. John Barrow announced in May that he wouldn't launch a Senate bid, attention turned to Nunn.
She may not have the Democratic field to herself. Atlanta physician Branko Radulovacki has already announced and former state Sen. Steen Miles is weighing a candidacy. While Nunn has the famous family name, it's a centrist brand and it may turn off some influential liberals in the state.
A Democratic primary most likely won't hold a candle to what could end up being a bitter primary battle on the Republican side to succeed Sen. Saxby Chambliss, who announced earlier this year that he wouldn't run for a third term in the Senate in 2014. Among the major Republican candidates running in a crowded field are congressmen Paul Broun, Phil Gringrey and Jack Kingston, and former Georgia Secretary of State Karen Handel.
National Democrats are banking on a contentious GOP primary that they think will produce a Republican nominee too conservative for Georgia voters in the November 2014 general election.
"While the Republican primary has turned into a right-wing circus likely to produce another Todd Akin, Michelle Nunn brings to this race the experience of a CEO, a career devoted to service, and deep working relationships with the Bush family and many Republicans in Georgia going back generations," Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Deputy Executive Director Matt Canter told CNN. "Michelle Nunn's strong candidacy and a crazy right wing primary, combined with the state's changing demographics, make Democrats extremely confident."
National Republicans see Democratic hopes of winning back the Georgia seat as a pipe dream.
"Hubris, but hubris that we welcome. Every dollar Democrats choose to spend losing a flight of fancy in Georgia represents a dollar Democrats choose not to use defending Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, and Mark Begich in Alaska," countered Brad Dayspring, communications director for the National Republican Senatorial Committee. "Each dollar diverted to Michelle Nunn is a dollar not to spent defending open seats in Montana, South Dakota, West Virginia, Iowa, or Michigan."
Next year, the Democrats will try to maintain their majority in the Senate, where they currently hold a 54-46 edge (including two independents who caucus with the party) over the GOP. They hope to expand that to 55-45 following October's special Senate election in New Jersey, which they are favored to win.
But they most likely will be defending 21 of 35 seats up for grabs in November 2014.
Republicans are optimistic about capturing seats in three states that vote red in presidential elections where Democratic incumbents are retiring: Montana, South Dakota, and West Virginia.
If the GOP captures those three states, it only needs three more seats to reach the magic number of 51.
Republican eyes are focused on four Democrats facing tough battles next year: Mark Pryor in Arkansas, Mary Landrieu in Louisiana, Kay Hagan in North Carolina, and Mark Begich in Alaska.
Take three of those four races and the Republicans will do what they couldn't do in 2010 and 2012: win back the majority. Democrats are also defending retirements in Iowa, where Sen. Tom Harkin is not running for a sixth term, and Michigan, where Sen. Carl Levin is not bidding for a seventh term. As of now, both of those seats appear to be safer for the Democrats.
Democrats hope to put Kentucky in play, where Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who's running for a sixth term, is facing a challenge from Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, and is also facing a possible primary challenge from a tea party-supported candidate.
Of the two Republican retirements, Sen. Mike Johanns' seat in Nebraska seems safe. Which brings us back to Georgia.
Non-partisan political handicappers say a divisive GOP primary could be a gift to the Democrats.
"The crowded Republican field may be Nunn's biggest asset at the moment. It is a crowded field that almost guarantees a runoff," Jennifer Duffy, senior editor at the non-partisan Cook Political Report, told CNN. "The presence of candidates like Broun and Gingrey means that the primary battle will be fought pretty far to the right. That said, Nunn will have to prove herself as a candidate. The Republican primary gives her the luxury of time to do that."
Nathan Gonzales, political editor of the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report, agreed.
"Michelle Nunn should give Democrats a credible candidate in case Republicans implode in their primary," Gonzales said. "There are still a lot of unknowns in the race. We don't know who the Republican nominee will be. We don't know what the national political environment will be like. And we don't know how Nunn will perform as a first time candidate. Georgia still isn't one of the top races in the country, but it could develop into a Democratic opportunity."