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In many, Democrats already appear to be in a position to compete. Rod Blum, a Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll showed dismal approval ratings for Trump and a 47%-29% edge for a generic Democrat. Abby Finkenauer and former Labor Department official Thomas Heckroth – make up a potentially strong slate of challengers for Blum.--In Michigan’s 8th district outside Detroit, where Trump won with 51% to 44% for Clinton, U. Voter anger in the state over the tax reform bill – which Frelinghuysen rejected but his party embraced – is running high.--In Ohio’s 1st district in southwestern Ohio, longtime Republican U. Chabot served 14 years in Congress before getting knocked out of office in a Democratic wave in 2008, then regained the seat two years later.

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On the other side of the aisle, 28 Republicans have either left Congress already or announced their retirements, besides those who are running for higher office or left to join the Trump administration. Nathan Gonzales, at Washington-based Inside Elections, agreed.

With competitive races around the country, huge sums of outside money are expected to flow – and already have, in some places. He said national polling showing an advantage for Democrats is a “starting point,” but the picture remains incomplete until data from individual districts starts showing up.“We have insufficient data,” he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, are counting on a strong economy and the passage of the recent tax bill – which should mean fatter paychecks for many families – to buoy them and limit losses that normally happen to the party in power in a midterm election.

Democrats also face headwinds from a midterm electorate that typically skews older, whiter and less urban – which could hurt their chances – and congressional district lines which have, in many states, been drawn to protect Republican officeholders.“I think what you could say is (overall) midterm elections tend to not be particularly kind to Democrats. Experts say the primaries may signal what’s to come in November.“If you see Democrats up by 10% on the generic ballot, that puts them in a decent position,” said Geoffrey Skelley at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, one of the experts the USA TODAY Network consulted in developing its list of bellwether districts.

As more Republicans drop out – like House Appropriations Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen of New Jersey did in late January after 23 years in the House – Democrats become more hopeful of winning not only toss-up elections but those in districts like the Wisconsin 6th, where victory has been out of reach.“Normally you’d think Grothman’s district is safe,” said Charles Franklin, director of the Marquette University Law School Poll.

“But when we see a real wave election, safe seats don’t stay safe.”With that in mind, the USA TODAY Network consulted voters, analysts and handicappers, academics and experts spread across 14 states to put together a list of 25 bellwether races – campaigns that, over the next nine months, could help indicate whether Democrats are riding a wave that could give them control of Congress.That’s true in the last two or three decades,” said Norm Ornstein, a congressional expert at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute. House Speaker Paul Ryan’s Congressional Leadership Fund is pushing a 0 million campaign to protect districts and has opened field offices in 27 races so far. “Have candidates everywhere you can, and maybe you can catch a wave.Still, said Ornstein, Democrats should be bolstered by what they’re seeing so far, especially by the ire Trump’s surprise election over Clinton seems to have engendered and the enthusiasm with which candidates have lined up to take on Republicans. Democratic groups, meanwhile, have spent heavily in races including the Alabama special election, which produced a stunning win for new-U. At the moment it looks like the environment is going to be good for them. Possibly.”A win in the House – which has been out of Democratic control since 2011 – would be a sea change in Washington, just as it was seven years ago when then-President Barack Obama saw his party lose the majority and, with it, the power to push through legislation.Another sign of new Democratic strength: In a January special election, Republicans lost a Wisconsin state Senate seat the party had held for 17 years. Scott Walker called it “a wake-up call.” Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, finding current congressional districts in the state to be unconstitutional, ordered the map redrawn by Feb. That new map could upend several districts in Pennsylvania, potentially increasing Democratic chances in areas currently represented by Republicans, especially those around Philadelphia, where Trump eked out victories or lost.Experts say some or most of the Democratic gains can be attributed to Trump, who continues to have record low approval ratings. But last year, Grothman – a longtime state legislator from the 6th Congressional District that stretches from Lake Michigan through the center of the state north of Milwaukee and Madison – told people he could be facing the “toughest race of my political career.” Fundraising was lagging and a potentially viable Democratic opponent – Dan Kohl, the nephew of former U. “There doesn’t seem to be any balance in Washington,” she said after the meeting.

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