“You have to shoot for the stars,” the Democratic operative Hilary Rosen told me. “You might just reach the moon.”

But even as Rosen said that, she hedged any prophecy of a rout, in a manner that spoke to the difficulty of properly calibrating optimism in 2018. She worried about Democrats’ policy agenda. She worried about the party’s tone. “I still think we lack a sunny, aspirational outlook,” she said. “We’re going down in the mud with Donald Trump.”

She added that the party wasn’t focused on change in the right, compelling fashion. “The change that Donald Trump was selling was blowing up the system,” she observed. “What’s our change? Is our change to patch up the system? Not very sexy.”