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One (very) early sign looks good for Democrats in 2018

House Democrats Discuss Failed GOP Health Care Vote Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

A new poll released Thursday by CNN puts Democrats within striking distance of taking back the House of Representatives, according to polling experts.

We’re still 15 months until the 2018 midterms, but the “generic ballot” — which simply compares which party is more popular in general — finds Democrats 11 points ahead of Republicans. Forecasting models suggest that Democrats would pick up at least 34 House seats if that number holds; they need to flip 24 seats to take it back.

The chart below, from Emory political scientist Alan Abramowitz, shows how many seats Republicans would be expected to lose based on how far behind they are in the generic ballot. It draws on every midterm election since World War II:

Of course, pollsters are quick to caution that the generic ballot could change before the election, that gerrymandering makes Democrats’ obstacles steep, and that President Donald Trump might pull his approval numbers out of their current tailspin.

“Obviously, it’s still very early. But if Democrats keep this generic ballot lead at least in the high single digits, you have to take their chances of retaking the House seriously,” said Geoffrey Skelley, a political forecaster at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics.

Democrats got more positive news on Wednesday night, when veterinarian Phil Miller won an Iowa statehouse race by 10 points in a district Trump had won by 21 points this fall. Democrats have been racking up surprise statehouse victories in red territory since Trump’s election, and while Democrats have lost all four special elections since the inauguration, they’ve also dramatically outperformed their results from last year in every one. (Carolyn Fiddler, of the Daily Kos, has been keeping a useful tracker showing just how dramatically Democrats have improved their margins since the fall.)

“All of this bodes well for Democrats,” Skelley said. “Unless Trump and the GOP can stop their polling slide, it doesn’t seem like conditions will be very good for Republicans in 2018.”