WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Publicly, Democratic campaign officials are putting a brave face on predictions of House losses, with House Campaign Chairman Chris Van Hollen claiming that the party might hold the chamber, meaning that they would lose fewer than a net of 39 seats. Other officials are pegging the expected losses at 50-55 seats, in line with consensus independent public forecasts, such as those of Charlie Cook and Nate Silver.
But within the last 12 hours I've spoken to two top Democratic consultants -- very active on the battlefield this fall and with 60 years of on-the-ground experience between them -- who told me some shocking news.
Separately, and privately, they each told me that they thought the Democrats could lose 70 seats on Tuesday. That would be a blowout of historic proportions.
For the record, the biggest one-day loss for the president's party in modern times was in 1938, when voters expressed their impatience with the Depression and FDR's New Deal by voting out 71 Democrats.
It seems likely now that Tuesday could exceed the two other benchmarks: a loss of 55 seats in 1942 and 52 in 1994.
"A lot of incumbents are going to wake up on Wednesday morning and not know what hit them," one of the consultants told me. "Anyone who isn't at 50 percent in the final polling will lose -- and even some who are above that line will."
These consultants may be wrong -- but the fact that they are that grim, if not beyond grim, can have a self-fulfilling effect.
From an exuberant high of two years ago, the Democrats are as down as I have seen them since the darkest of Bill Clinton's days.
But maybe that comparison is its own ray of hope. The GOP overplayed its hand in 1995 and 1996 -- and may well do so again.
And don't forget that Clinton was reelected.
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