While public opinion polls suggest a very close race for the presidency in 2012, Professor of History Allan Lichtman of American University assures us that the contest has already been determined.
His arguments are outlined in his most recent book, Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House 2012. I heard a condensed version of Lichtman's book at a recent meeting of the Chicago chapter of the American Statistical Association, where he reiterated his prediction that Barack Obama would win re-election in 2012.
That prediction is based on his historical analysis of the “keys” to winning the White House and his subsequent development of a prediction model that has been eerily successful. According to that model, the 13 keys he has identified accurately explain all the presidential winners of the popular vote since 1860!
In 1982, he made his first prediction based on those keys (that Ronald Reagan would win re-election), and in every election from 1984 through 2008, he has correctly identified the popular vote winner.
That is some record.
It’s particularly intriguing, because typically his predictions are made more than a year in advance of the election, when voter polls are notoriously unreliable indicators of the eventual winner. He made the 2012 prediction for the first time in the May 2010 edition of the journal Foresight, where he wrote: “The early verdict of the Keys is that President Barack Obama will secure re-election in 2012, regardless of the identity of the Republican nominee.”* In his book, with a copyright of 2012, and at the ASA meeting, he stated nothing has changed to alter his prediction.
Of the 13 keys, Obama gets a positive score on 9, and a question mark on one other. All he needs, according to the model, is to get a positive score on 6 of the keys.
Does that mean Obama is a shoo-in? Yes!...according to the model. In fact, Lichtman said at the ASA meeting that despite polls showing a close race now, he thought Obama would probably win the popular vote by about the same margin as in 2008. (His official prediction, however, is only that Obama will win – by whatever margin.)
The question that arises, of course, is: Will he be right in 2012? Is the campaign for the presidency only a process by which predetermined factors exert themselves in a predictable pattern?
Read the book. Let me know what you think!
*Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House (Rowman & Littlefield, 2012), p. 184.