It is a badly kept secret on Capitol Hill that many Democratic lawmakers, especially those facing tough elections, want President Clinton to resign. But they are afraid of the political risk in saying so.

With new evidence soon to become public, Democratic House members increasingly fear that Clinton may drag down the party's candidates by hanging onto his job past the Nov. 3 congressional elec-tions.Above all, Democrats want Clinton's fate resolved quickly. Clinton's resignation would accomplish that, while impeachment hearings, even if the president emerged with his job intact, would not.

The anxious Democrats are expressing their concerns to friends, colleagues and campaign operatives, but apparently not to those who matter most: The public and the president himself.

"They want him to leave," a top aide to a senior House Democrat said this week. The aide said that members of the president's own party lack the will to suggest he step down, in part because his approval ratings remain high.

Affecting an Arkansas drawl, the aide imagined Clinton's reaction if a troupe of Democrats marched to the White House and urged Clinton to step down: "I'm at 60 (percent approval rating). Where are you?"

Of course, not all Democrats want Clinton to resign. But because so many of the lawmakers remain circumspect, it is impossible to tell just how much support Clinton does have on Capitol Hill. Experienced political pundits think it's precious little.