The Keys to the White House

Incorporating subjective elements as they do, the Keys to the White House are a less-than-perfect election predictor, but they’re certainly less imperfect than the Fake Polls by the Fake News:

Professor Alan Lichtman correctly predicted a Trump victory in 2016 using a model he developed in collaboration with a Soviet scientist who specialized in predicting earthquakes. The model is a true-or-false test on a list of 13 keys about the incumbent administration and the challenger. If five or fewer of the keys are false, the incumbent party wins.

The keys include factors like whether “after the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.” For the 2020 election, this key is false, since Democrats gained seats in the House in November 2018. In 2020, Lichtman is predicting that Biden will win, but the prediction appears to be victim to a subjective judgment on two of the keys.

On key number 11, Lichtman rules that Trump has achieved no “major success in foreign or military affairs.” The assessment does not explain why the eradication of the ISIS caliphate and the withdrawal of troops from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq cannot be counted as major military successes. Lichtman likewise doesn’t explain why he discounted the Trump administration brokering the signing of the Abraham accords, arguably the biggest breakthrough toward peace in the Middle East in decades.

And on key number 12, Lichtman rules that Trump is not “charismatic or a national hero,” an assessment which would be hard to defend before the Republican party, where his approval has steadily held in the mid- to high- 80s.

With the charisma and foreign affairs keys flipped for Trump, the model would swing in favor of the president’s reelection.

As those who watched Darkstream 655 will know, I think Lichtman has coded five keys incorrectly

  • The economy is not in recession during the electoral campaign. While successive negative GDP quarters indicate a technical recession, Q3 is going to set a record for the fastest annualized growth rate in post-WWII history.
  • Prior to the Covid-19 shutdown, the Trump economy recorded higher average growth rates than the previous two terms of the Obama administration. So, again, it’s a question of whether you blindly apply the model or take the current situation into context. No one is blaming Trump for the shutdown or the subsequent consequences, to the contrary, he’s been criticized for trying to keep the economy open.
  • The Trump administration has not been tainted by any scandals. Russia-Russia-Russia was an invention of his political opponents. Impeachment was so obviously political and irrelevant that Biden hasn’t even seen fit to mention it in his attack ads. The only scandal is the DC Swamp’s relentless campaign against him.
  • Trump has enjoyed historic foreign policy success since Reagan. To claim that he has not had “a major foreign policy or military success” is crazy. He’s also kept the US out of war with China, Russia, Iran, and Syria, despite the best efforts of the neocons.
  • Again, to claim Trump is not charismatic is insane. The fact that he might not personally appeal to Alan Lichtman is not the point, because Trump is obviously in the Reagan/Clinton mode of a charismatic leader.
I count two false keys, perhaps four if you insist on being technical on the economy. Either way, the Keys point to a win for the incumbent party and the incumbent President.