All signs point to a hotly-contested special election to fill the vacant seat left by outgoing Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. But as she resigns this week to focus on her recovery from last year's shooting, the Arizona Democrat leaves behind a few distinct advantages for her party.

The Giffords effect By all accounts, Giffords resided over a swing seat: in the 2008 her district went for John McCain in the presidential election and she barely held onto it in the 2010 midterms by a razor-thin 1.3 percent margin. She voted as a deficit hawk, border security advocate and a supporter of defense and veterans issues. Still, her aura will be a major factor in the race, as The Washington Post notes. "The special circumstances — Giffords has become a national hero since the assassination attempt against her last January — surrounding the seat could give Democrats something of a boost." Hinting at the advantage, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel said, “The entire nation has felt like one of Gabrielle Giffords’ constituents. We look forward to working with a Democratic candidate who fits this district and shares those values that Gabrielle holds dear to carry on her work.”

Timing As The Daily Beast notes, "the timing of Giffords’s resignation now, instead of earlier in her recovery, should help Democrats win the seat if a recently redrawn map for Giffords’s district will be used during the special election that will soon be called by Arizona’s Gov. Jan Brewer." The Arizona Republic also homes in on the timing advantage. "Some political observers said the surprise timing of Giffords' resignation potentially could help Democrats, especially if, as some political insiders already are predicting, Giffords and her team quickly get behind a possible successor. Both parties face a time-crunch scramble to field candidates to run for her seat."
 
Redistricting It won't help out immediately but it will in the long term. In a boost for Democrats, the state's independent redistricting commission carved out a more Democratic district for the vacant seat. Still, its makeup will be a challenge for any Democrat. As the Arizona Republic notes, "As of July, the new 2nd Congressional District had slightly more registered Republicans, 131,000, than registered Democrats, 129,000. It also had 117,000 voters registered as independents or with third parties. More than 90 percent of the 2nd District's voters come from Giffords' existing district. The remainder come from the seat held by U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a liberal Democrat," writes the newspaper. It's important to note, however that the new map is under dispute and the Post notes that the special election (likely held in late April) will be under the old lines. 
 

A deep bench A Democratic source tells The Post that the party has a "deep bench" going into the special election, which should setup the party nicely. The Daily Beast notes that names of possible candidates include "Linda McNulty, who served on Arizona’s redistricting commission; Matt Heinz, a Tucson doctor who is serving in the Arizona House; Arizona Senate Minority Whip Paula Aboud; and two Giffords staffers —Pia Carusone and Ron Barber." However, Politico reports that Carusone and Barber will not run. 

Money It's too early to say but Giffords could use her campaign war chest  to support her Democratic successor. "Giffords won't be allowed to keep the money in her campaign war chest for her personal use, but she could dole out contributions to other candidates. She could also use it for expenses, give it to charity or return it to her donors," reports the Arizona Republic.