Professor with perfect prediction record forecasts Donald Trump loss to Joe Biden
Allan Lichtman, who has correctly called every US presidential election since 1984, says his calculations might be upset by foreign interference or voter suppression
He is the wizard of US presidential elections, having predicted accurately every winner from Ronald Reagan in 1984 to Donald Trump in 2016. Now, Allan Lichtman is confident that the current president will lose to Joe Biden in November.
Prof Lichtman, a professor of history at American University, built a prediction model in 1982 that ignores the polls and the daily fracas of campaigns.
Instead, it is based on 13 trends or “keys” that determine the winner, detailed in his book Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House.
These keys include party mandate, third-party challenge, social unrest, incumbency, foreign policy or military success, and the charisma of the candidates.
“My assessment is that the keys to the White House count out the re-election of Donald Trump,” Prof Lichtman tells The National.
“The beauty of the keys to the model is it doesn’t look at polls, it ignores the pundits and it looks at the big picture of the incumbent’s strengths and performance ... these don’t change with the swinging winds of politics.”
Many are voting against Donald Trump and not for Joe Biden
Incumbency is historically a powerful advantage – only five US presidents seeking re-election have lost since 1900.
The last incumbent to lose the presidency was George H Bush to Bill Clinton in 1992, and Prof Lichtman predicted that outcome.
“Mr Trump is just not going to replay the 2016 playbook; as incumbent, it’s governing and not campaigning that counts,” he says.
In 2016, following his lone prediction that Mr Trump would win against Hillary Clinton, the newly elected president sent Prof Lichtman a signed copy of the article bearing his forecast.
“Professor congrats, good call,” Mr Trump wrote.
But Prof Lichtman expects a different result this year even though some polls suggest the race is narrowing between the two candidates.
“The polls are a snapshot, they are not predictors, unlike my model they don’t base their assessment on the underlying dynamics of how elections really work.”
The professor is not waiting for the coming three debates between Mr Trump and Mr Biden – the first on September 29 – to re-evaluate his assessment.
“No, the debates won’t move the needle. The traditional campaigning has never influenced the outcome of the presidency one way or another,” he says, pointing out that Hillary Clinton and John Kerry won their debates in 2016 and 2004 but lost the election.
Similarly, he does not see the kind of a foreign policy success for Mr Trump that would alter the course of the race.
“To qualify as foreign policy success it has to fit into two criteria – it has to be of substantive importance and to be broadly recognised by the American people,” he says.
Prof Lichtman acknowledges there are outside factors that could disrupt his model.
“What keeps me awake at night and is outside the realm of any prediction system are two factors: voter suppression and Russian interference,” he says.
“Any prediction is based on a free and fair election process.”
But when it comes the size of campaign rallies or the number of homes displaying signs of support for either candidate, Prof Lichtman says these will have little impact.
“There is nothing to take from signs. Many are voting against Donald Trump and not for Joe Biden.”
Updated: September 8, 2020 04:14 PM