Two turbulent years ago, no one foresaw that the Republicans would end the Democrats' 40-year grip on the House of Representatives.
But now, with the presidential election looking like a foregone conclusion, some analysts say that if President Clinton's margin over Bob Dole is big enough, the Democrats will recapture the House.
Sensing an opening, AFL-CIO President John Sweeney began a five-state tour Monday to help the Democrats regain their historic control. The union combine is investing $55 million in the effort.
The Republicans, meanwhile, released a new television ad in 50 marginal districts to warn voters against turning Capitol Hill over to "liberal special interests."
Political scientist James Campbell said his studies indicate that if Clinton's share of the popular vote reaches 58 percent, the House will go Democratic.
Campbell, a political scientist based at Louisiana State University, said his model presumes that the party of the leading presidential candidate will add 2 1/2 to three seats in the House for every percentage point the president receives over 50 percent.
A 58 percent vote for Clinton implies a turnover of from 20 to 24 seats, according to Campbell's projections.
The Democrats need a switch of 19 to replace House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., with Rep. Richard A. Gephardt, D-Mo., the present minority leader.
"It's going to be extremely close, but I think they would recapture the House," Campbell said.
"If the election were held now, I think the Democrats would retake the House," agreed Darrell West, a Brown University analyst.
The Republicans still have time to turn things around, West said. "Up to now, the House campaign has been a referendum on Newt Gingrich," he said. "What the Republicans are doing is pretty clever -- trying to make it a referendum on Bill Clinton."
That tactic won for the GOP two years ago.
Gordon S. Black of Rochester predicted House Republicans will lose and "may even be facing a defeat of massive proportions."
Black, who heads a national market research and polling organization, said the Republicans' surprise takeover of the House two years ago -- for the first time in 40 years -- was driven by a 7 percentage point lead in the "generic congressional poll."
That survey doesn't test each of the 435 volatile and very local House races but asks voters which party they want to control the House.
"With the Democrats 8 to 10 (percentage) points ahead in the generic congressional ballot, there doesn't seem to be a way they can lose," Black said.
If all Black's predictions came true, "then Tom Golisano would be governor of New York," responded Rep. Bill Paxon of Amherst, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
He was referring to Black's support for Golisano, a Rochester business executive for governor two years ago.
Despite the possibility of long Clinton coattails, Paxon still predicts the GOP not only will retain control of the House, but will expand it.
Paxon, however, has modified his forecast. Through the summer, he had insisted the Republicans would add 20 to 30 seats to the 235 they now control.
Paxon now says the Republicans could gain 14 seats. Counting the six Democrats who switched to the GOP, Paxon said, "that makes 20."
Paxon disputed the findings in a New York Times article last week that reported Republican congressional leaders bailing out on Dole.
One sign the Republicans still have momentum, Paxon said, is the party's ability to raise record amounts of money for its congressional majority.
As of Sept. 30, the Republican congressional campaign had outspent the Democrats at a rate of 2 1/2 to one.
Federal Election Commission reports show Paxon's committee raised $61 million and spent $50 million. Democrats raised $24.6 million and spent $20 million. The Democrats, however, also are benefiting from the $45 million the AFL-CIO has devoted to the Democratic federal campaign.
At least six Republican-held seats in California and at least four in New York State are in play, according to most surveys. The embattled New York Republicans include Rep. Jack F. Quinn of Hamburg and three of the four GOP representatives from Long Island, where Clinton already has a 21-point edge, with 8 percent still undecided, according to a recent poll by Mason-Dixon Media Research.
In addition to the collapsing Dole campaign, Black said, Democrats are benefiting from two important factors: "revulsion over the Gingrich rhetoric" and the fact that Republican congressmen hold the overwhelming majority of districts with narrow registration margins.
None of the analysts would predict whether the Democrats will wrest control of the Senate from the Republicans.
Washington Bureau assistant David Boag contributed to this article.