Well, let’s hope this guy is right! Thirty years is a long stretch. Do you think this is reliable?
Nobody knows for certain who will win on Nov. 8 — but one man is pretty sure: Professor Allan Lichtman, who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984.
When we sat down in May, he explained how he comes to a decision. Lichtman’s prediction isn’t based on horse-race polls, shifting demographics or his own political opinions. Rather, he uses a system of true/false statements he calls the “Keys to the White House” to determine his predicted winner.
And this year, he says, Donald Trump is the favorite to win.
The keys, which are explained in depth in Lichtman’s book “Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2016” are:
- Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.
- Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
- Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
- Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
- Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
- Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
- Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
- Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
- Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
- Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
- Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
- Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
- Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.
Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, sat down with The Fix this week to reveal who he thinks will win in November and why 2016 was the most difficult election to predict yet. Our conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
THE FIX: Can you tell me about the keys, and how you use them to evaluate the election from the point where — I assume it’s very murky a year or two out, and they start to crystallize over the course of the election.
LICHTMAN: “The Keys to the White House” is a historically based prediction system. I derived the system by looking at every American presidential election from 1860 to 1980, and have since used the system to correctly predict the outcomes of all eight American presidential elections from 1984 to 2012.
The keys are 13 true/false questions, where an answer of “true” always favors the reelection of the party holding the White House, in this case the Democrats. And the keys are phrased to reflect the basic theory that elections are primarily judgments on the performance of the party holding the White House. And if six or more of the 13 keys are false — that is, they go against the party in power — they lose. If fewer than six are false, the party in power gets four more years.
So people who hear just the surface-level argument there might say, well, President Obama has a 58 percent approval rating, doesn’t that mean the Democrats are a shoo-in? Why is that wrong?
It absolutely does not mean the Democrats are a shoo-in. First of all, one of my keys is whether or not the sitting president is running for reelection, and right away, they are down that key. Another one of my keys is whether or not the candidate of the White House party is, like Obama was in 2008, charismatic. Hillary Clinton doesn’t fit the bill.