R oy Moore was hardly an ideal candidate for Republicans in Alabama, but Democrats still see his loss as an encouraging sign that could portend a flip of control in the Senate in 2018.

According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll published on Sunday, 50% of registered voters now say they prefer a Democratic-controlled Congress, while only 39% want Republicans in charge. That’s the largest margin for Democrats since 2008, right before President Obama was elected and the party made huge gains in the Senate.

The race for the Senate seat in Alabama was close. Though he was dogged by charges of impropriety and immoral conduct, Moore lost by only 20,000 votes, or about 1.5% of the vote. According to a Washington Post analysis of the election, Democratic voter turnout surged while Republicans, unhappy with Moore as their candidate, stayed home. Still, a Republican lost in a state where Donald Trump outdueled Hillary Clinton by 28 points.

Before Democrats start stocking up champagne bottles for next year’s midterm elections, however, they should be careful to draw the appropriate lessons from the results, says Democratic campaign strategist Hank Sheinkopf.

“This is not the time for celebration,” Sheinkopf cautioned. “This is the time to learn what Alabama means. Based on what we know now, these races are won based on turnout. So the Democrats’ strategy has to be about increasing turnout in places where they have an opportunity to win.”

Jim Arkedis, president of 4DPAC, a progressive, foreign-policy-focused action committee, went further, saying the outcome of the Alabama election is likely an indication of victories in next year’s midterm elections. “The glass is definitely fuller for the Democratic Party,” he said. “The idea that you could win a Senate seat in a deep-red state like Alabama, no matter who the competition is, is always a huge bonus, and will provide a lot of additional enthusiasm and momentum for Democrats heading into 2018.”

While 26 Democratic incumbents are defending their seats in 2018, compared to eight Republicans, the open seats — Mike Lee’s in Arizona and Bob Corker’s in Tennessee — will be heavily targeted by the Democrats. After Democrat Doug Jones defeated Roy Moore, the Republicans now control a slim 51 of the Senate’s 100 seats.

Arkedis says he already sees a “wave” building among Democrats that could result in a major congressional turnaround. “I have trouble believing it will be a very small victory.”

Is all lost for Republicans? Republican consultant Michael Fragin says the GOP should consider the Moore loss a cautionary tale. “The Republicans lost the suburban vote badly, minority turnout was very high, and Trump’s favorable rating is at 49% even in the deep South,” he explained.

Even in the Northeast, Fragin says, Trump’s new tax plan may alienate some Republican voters and create problems for the GOP. That could create a “very toxic mix going into 2018.” (Excerpted from Mishpacha, Issue 690)