Today, Ralph Reed made official what everyone had expected -- he's running for Lieutenant Governor of Georgia in 2006:

"After much prayer and reflection, and with a heart filled with anticipation for the bright future for our state, today I write you to announce my candidacy for the office of lieutenant governor of Georgia," the former Christian Coalition director and state GOP chairman wrote in a letter that was e-mailed to 'tens of thousands' of Georgians.' ...

"Asked why he should be lieutentant governor, Reed said he's a 'team player' who can work with the Republican majority in the state Capitol and has a background as a strategist who helped craft the Contract With America, which the GOP rode to a congressional majority in 1994, and the Declaration for a New Georgia, which was the Republican's campaign document in 2002."

Good to know he's a "team player" who can work with Republicans. But the story behind the story is that Reed sees this as a mere stepping-stone to bigger and better things. As the Washington Times reported on January 18:

"Word that Ralph Reed plans to seek the lieutenant governorship of Georgia signals what friends say is the former Christian Coalition executive director's ultimate ambition - 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue ...

Associates say Mr. Reed, 43, whose picture first appeared on the cover of Time magazine nearly 10 years ago, hopes to use the lieutenant governor's job to position himself to run for Georgia governor. Friends also say the Atlanta-based consultant's long-held ambition is ultimately to win for himself the Republican presidential nomination."

I'm not sure Reed's political star is so bright. It's one thing for the fundamentalist right to be a large part of your electoral base; it's quite another for the country to put one of the movement's most public leaders in the White House.

Besides, Reed's shady involvement in lobbying for Indian gambling operations (after having called gambling "a cancer on the American body politic"), his lucrative consultancy with Enron while the firm bilked consumers and defrauded investors, and other unholy dealings have taken a bit of the shine off his wholesome "family values" image.

Reed's genius is that, at his core, he's a savvy political operative -- a lot smoother and strategic than his more unhinged far-right breatheren. If and when he moves up the political ladder, the challenge will be for Reed to square his earthly political power-plays with his professed higher calling.