Things look good for Republicans, but neither party is sure that they’re looking at the kind of national tide that knocks one party out of control of Congress and sweeps another into power.

One person who knows a bit about what a political wave looks like is Newt Gingrich. Right up until the eve of the election in 1994, few believed that he was going to pull off the first Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in four decades. I was a Time Magazine correspondent traveling with Gingrich in those final weeks, barnstorming in a six-seat plane from Cobb County, Georgia, to Tullahoma, Tenn., to Midwest City, Okla. By Election Day that year, Gingrich would have been to 137 congressional districts.

It was clear that something big was happening, but it was hard to take him and his top strategist Joe Gaylord all that seriously when they told me their conservative estimate was that they would win 40 seats from the Democrats in the House — enough to make Gingrich the next speaker. When the votes were counted a few weeks later, it turned out that the party had picked up 54.