In one of the most bizarre election years in U.S. history, Professor Allan Lichtman, who’s accurately predicted every presidential winner of the popular vote since 1984, is sticking to his forecast of a Trump win.
However, he’s making some big qualifications.
A distinguished professor of history at American University, Lichtman has turned presidential predictions into a science — he’s even written a book about it.
Back in May, Lichtman told The Washington Post that his system points to a Trump presidency.
With election day around the corner, we sat down with the professor to see if he’s changed his mind.
The ’13 Keys’
Lichtman’s system, which he started in the early ’80s with Russian scientist Volodia Keilis-Borok, uses 13 true/false statements called the “Keys to the White House.”
The keys determine whether the incumbent party will keep hold of The White House during an election. If more than half are false, the challengers win.
- Party Mandate: The incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives after the midterm elections than in the previous years.
- 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 has not committed a 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.
- Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic.
What about the polls?
The keys have nothing to do with approval ratings or horse-race polls because they’re “often wrong,” Lichtman said.
Instead, he bases his predictions on a theory of how elections operate and breaks down what each party has to do to win.
A Clinton presidency
Because Trump is such an unusual candidate, Lichtman says this is the most difficult election he’s ever had to predict.
When asked if he would change his model if Hillary Clinton wins, he said it would depend on how Trump affected the future of politics.
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