Rep. Jon Runyan announced on Wednesday that he will not seek re-election, creating an unexpected opening in a competitive district for 2014.
The two-term New Jersey Republican is one of 17 members of the House GOP caucus to represent a district President Barack Obama carried in 2012. Obama won the district with 52 percent in last year, but Runyan won re-election with 54 percent.
That status should make Runyan's district a top target for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which needs to pick up 17 seats to win the majority in the House. Combined with other recent developments it gives House Democrats a fighting chance of winning the majority in 2014.
House Democrats are bullish about picking up a Tampa Bay, Fla., district that was held by the late Republican Congressman C.W. "Bill" Young since 1971. Though traditionally Republican territory, Democrats have made major inroads of late. Barack Obama actually carried the district in 2008 and 2012.
The likely Democratic standard-bearer for the March 2014 special election will be Alex Sink, the former state chief financial officer. Sink narrowly lost the Florida governorship in 2010 to Republican Rick Scott. And though she doesn't currently live in the district she sports wide name recognition. Top-tier Republicans so far have bowed out of the race.
Then there's Arkansas's open 4th District, where GOP Rep. Tim Griffin, like New Jersey's Runyan, is retiring after two terms. The one-time Democratic-dominated state has gone Republican big-time. But Democrats have a top-tier candidate in Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Director James Lee Witt.
Witt served as FEMA director under former President Bill Clinton. The Little Rock-area seat is being vacated by first-term GOP Rep. Tom Cotton. Cotton announced earlier this year that he is leaving the seat to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Pryor, arguably the most vulnerable Senate incumbent in 2014.
Arkansas' 4th District is conservative, and GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried it by a 26-point margin in 2012. But Democratic Rep. Mike Ross held the seat for more than a decade before retiring in 2012. Ross is running for governor in 2014.
On the Republican side, state House Majority Leader Bruce Westerman and businessman Tommy Moll have announced bids for the seat.
To reclaim the majority lost in 2010, House Democrats would need to thread the needle by picking up these three and a bunch more seats that are potentially competitive. The implementation of Obamacare, the national economy and a range of other issues still make it an uphill battle.
But not as inconceivable as even a few weeks ago.
Politix, and via Roll Call.