Sinn Fein First Minister Michelle O'Neill next year?
With O'Neill's party almost 5% ahead of the DUP in this latest LucidTalk poll, republicans are entitled to be excited. Sinn Fein is on course to become the most popular party in both jurisdictions on the island.
The party starts the 2022 Assembly election only one seat behind the DUP. It is not a huge ask to overhaul Arlene Foster's party.
The poll shows the vote share of both parties down from the previous Assembly contest but the DUP's drop doubles that of Sinn Fein. Ever-growing Alliance is within 1% of the DUP.
But there are reasons for Sinn Fein to be cautious.
One is leadership. Only 23% give O'Neill a positive rating of 'good' or 'great'. That is half the approval level given to Sinn Fein President Mary-Lou McDonald in a recent poll in the South. And 56% say O'Neill's performance has been 'bad' or 'awful', the latter the larger category.
Does this matter? Only 12% of Sinn Fein voters do not rate O'Neill's performance. Most Sinn Fein voters like her and will never defect. The figure that might concern Sinn Fein's northern leader is that only 14% of SDLP voters are impressed.
For First Minister O'Neill to become a reality, Sinn Fein needs to deal with a second problem: the SDLP revival under Colum Eastwood.
This was demonstrated by SDLP gains at the 2019 Westminster election, Eastwood's own victory a landslide take from Sinn Fein.
Sinn Fein probably needs to squeeze some of the SDLP's 12% vote share (and 12 seats) at the last Assembly election in 2017. Transfers from Alliance voters would also help but their view of the Sinn Fein leader is akin to SDLP backers.
Another possible problem is that Sinn Fein's biggest support is among young people, at 35% among 18-24 year olds. That might sound a lovely problem to have. Longer-term, it is. A new generation of Shinners. But only a minority of 18 to 24 year olds voted at the last election. 70% of those aged 65 and over did vote. And among that grey vote, the DUP is 15% ahead of Sinn Fein, trailing on 9%.
The final possible problem is that the Assembly election will be brutal. The DUP will market itself as the only party that can stop Sinn Fein. The old battle cry might still have enough mileage to frighten UUP and TUV potential voters into offering Arlene's party their support. This could mean that the DUP's current poor poll rating proves a low-water mark.
Within unionism, the next election will not be about golden unionist visions but saving the Union.
For the implications are potentially profound if O'Neill can unseat Arlene Foster as First Minister. Such a demonstration of Sinn Fein popularity would make calls for a border poll deafening, even if risky for republicans.
Secretary of State Brandon Lewis might avert his gaze from a Sinn Fein triumph. It might disappear from his view like the Irish Sea border. But the pressure would be on the Secretary of State to show why he felt support for a united Ireland remained insufficient for a constitutional referendum if Sinn Fein wins big.
And because of this, many voters might treat next year's election as a mini-referendum.
It might not be edifying but it will not be dull.
Jon Tonge is Professor of Politics at the University of Liverpool and Director of the last four ESRC Northern Ireland General Election studies