With today’s ratings changes, House Editor David Wasserman estimates 50 House seats are currently competitive, and another 60 are potentially competitive. Of the 50 currently competitive seats, Democrats occupy 40 (80 percent), exactly the number of seats Republicans need to gain to steal the House majority. Of the 60 potentially competitive seats, Democrats occupy 45 (75 percent), a figure that underscores Democrats’ overexposed position in the House today.

It is important to note that while one party has never won all of the competitive races in any given election cycle (currently Republicans would need to win all 50 competitive seats to win 218 seats in the House), the likelihood of one or two dozen potentially competitive Democratic seats entering the danger zone at some point in this cycle is high. We don’t see the Democratic majority in immediate danger, but our current outlook projects a Republican net gain of 20 to 30 seats. Additional retirements or erosion in Democratic incumbents’ standing could push that forecast higher.

”HI-01 – OPEN (Abercrombie) – Likely D to Lean D”

Even armed with a strong candidate, Republicans needed a big break to give them any hope of capturing President Obama’s native district, which is 11 points more Democratic than the national average. They appear to have gotten one in the form of Abercrombie’s early resignation to focus on a gubernatorial bid, which has set up an all-party special election that will likely take place in May. Honolulu Councilman Charles Djou, a Republican, will have the resources to seek a plurality as state Sen. Colleen Hanabusa and former Rep. Ed Case split the Democratic vote.

This race is taking shape quickly. Both Hanabusa and Case have run for (and in Case’s case, represented) the state’s other more Democratic 2nd CD in the past. But this is likely to remain a three way race in which most of the state’s old line liberal establishment will line up behind Hanabusa, who came within several hundred votes of the Democratic nomination for the 2nd CD in 2006. The self-styled centrist Case, who sought a promotion to the Senate that year by challenging Democratic Sen. Daniel Akaka in the primary, remains a thorn in most Democratic leaders’ side.

Democrats insist that Case and Djou will be competing for the same center-right portion of the electorate, but Case’s 45 percent showing against Akaka in 2006 shows that he can win over a sizable share of Democrats. The question here is just how much muscle high-profile state and national Democrats (particularly President Obama’s political apparatus) put behind Hanabusa to prevent Djou from coming within striking distance of prevailing with as little as 35 to 40 percent of the vote. Already, both of the state’s senators are getting behind Hanabusa, while Democratic former Gov. Ben Cayetano is supporting Case. This race is definitely worth monitoring.

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