Can the Democrats take back the House in 2018? Sure they can, though it's of course far from a sure thing. But here are a few things they've got going for them:
- Democrats are running an 8 point advantage in the generic Congressional ballot. By Alan Abramowitz' Congressional seat change model, that advantage predicts a Democratic seat gain of more than the 24 seats Democrats need to take control. Of course, there's a long way to go to the election and that generic advantage could narrow. But it's still a very positive sign for the Democrats.
- Another key variable is the popularity of the incumbent President. The more unpopular the incumbent, the more gains the challenger party--the Democrats--can expect to make in a midterm election. And of course Trump is massively unpopular and appears to be getting more so over time. Right now, the 538 site has his popularity at a stunning -20 points underwater (37 percent approval/57 percent disapproval). That's a big thumb on the scales for the Democrats (and without a corresponding unpopular figure like Hillary Clinton for Republicans to beat up on).
- Finally, a key to Democratic success will be running viable, credible challengers in as many districts as they can so as to widen the playing field and maximize their chances to picking off those 24 seats. As the chart above shows, the Democrats are having amazing success compared to previous cycles in getting credible challengers--as measured by the ability to raise money--to come forward. That's huge.
So the early signs are good. In the end, will Democratic challengers be successful enough to overcome the gerrymandering penalty Democrats are saddled with and grab those 24 seats or more? Stay tuned but there are grounds for reasonable optimism.