Republicans just got some good news for the 2018 midterm elections: A new poll shows them leading in the race for Congress

Key Points
  • A poll shows Republicans leading Democrats on the generic congressional ballot for the first time in months.
  • The Democrats' lead on generic ballots has grown smaller since last year, as voters approve more of Republicans' handling of the economy.
  • Nearly a quarter of voters remain undecided, however.
Republicans find success in new poll

For the first time in months, a poll shows Republicans leading Democrats in a generic congressional ballot.

The figures in the Politico/Morning Consult survey will likely give Republicans fresh hope for holding on to congressional majorities — and reinforce the strategy to promote their tax law ahead of November's midterm elections.

Generic polls ask voters which party they are inclined to vote for rather than which candidate.

Among registered voters, 39 percent said they would back the GOP candidate in their district, according to the poll. Thirty-eight percent said they would support a Democrat, while 23 percent are undecided.

Democrats still hold the advantage across a variety of polls. An average of recent generic ballots shows Democrats with a roughly 7 percentage point lead, according to RealClearPolitics. But that edge has fallen from 13 percentage points last year.

None of the dozens of polls compiled by RealClearPolitics going back to January 2017 showed a Republican lead on the generic ballot.

The poll Wednesday showed other good news for Republicans. The 47 percent approval rating for President Donald Trump — whose dismal popularity threatens to drag on GOP candidates — matched his disapproval among voters in the survey.

The poll also showed sentiment improving for the GOP's ability to handle the economy and jobs. It comes as Democrats have grown increasingly worried about public opinion of the GOP tax cuts improving and tried to use economic messaging to make their case.

The minority party in Congress sees opportunity in November's election as Trump struggles to win over most of the country. Most recent polls have still found that a majority of the country disapproves of the job he is doing as president, which could hurt GOP congressional candidates linked to him.

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Democrats also became more hopeful after winning a Senate election in deep-red Alabama last year, as well as some state legislative seats in areas that typically supported Republicans.

They have targeted more than 100 House seats held by Republicans this year, including many districts won by Trump. While Democrats received a boost last year from opposition to Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said this week that his party "cannot just run against" the president.

Republicans hold a 238 to 193 seat majority in the House, with four current vacancies. That means Democrats need to pick up 25 GOP seats to take over the House. According to NBC News' count, at least 20 Republican incumbents have said they will retire this year.

Republicans hold a 51 to 49 edge in the Senate, but they have a much better chance of keeping control of that chamber. Democrats hold 26 of the 34 Senate seats on 2018 ballots. Several Democrats face tough re-election bids in states Trump won in 2016 such as Missouri, North Dakota, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan and Florida.

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