And surprise surprise, it did. It actually turned out worse. When it came to 8am the Lib Dems looked set to pick up a miserable eight seats.
So, like the political hero he is, the BBC's Andrew Neil did what we all wanted and confronted Ashdown with a rather fetching and delicious-looking fedora.
Despite his earlier pledge, Ashdown disappointed hordes of weary-eyed journalists and sleep-deprived politicos by refusing to munch the headgear.
Cue hundreds of jokes about a Liberal Democrat breaking a promise he made just 10 hours after the polls closed.
Still, if Ashdown fancies a bite to eat this morning here's some of the night's best hats he could chow down on:
Hats Paddy Ashdown Could Eat
Former Labour spin doctor Alastair Campbell also joined in on the clothing feast, pledging to consume a kilt if the SNP got 58 seats, but luckily for him they fell short at 56. A lot of people thought that was close enough anyway and called on Campbell to pull a knife and fork from his sporran.
Responding to the joint BBC/ITN/Sky exit poll, a Lib Dem spokesman acknowledged the election was "unpredictable" but rejected the findings.
"This exit poll does not reflect any of our intelligence from today or in the run-up to polling day. We will wait for the final results."
Clegg's close ally Lord Scriven said the exit poll "looks completely rogue" and added that the YouGov poll, which put the Lib Dems on 10%, gave a "completely different picture".
Speaking to reporters at the Sheffield count in the English Institute of Sport, he refused to be drawn on what the exit poll figures would mean for Clegg's leadership.
"I don't think it is going to be that result," he said. "We just need to all take a breath, wait until the evening gets a bit more firm and then make decisions about who, what, where and why."
The poll put Conservatives on 316 - just 10 short of the magic number of 326 needed to command an absolute majority in the House of Commons. Labour were forecast to secure just 239 - 17 fewer than their tally at the start of the election campaign - with the Scottish National Party almost achieving a clean sweep of 58 of the 59 seats north of the border.