“Even if I am being conservative, I don’t see how Obama can lose,” says Lichtman, the brains behind The Keys to the White House…
Working for the president are several of Lichtman’s keys, tops among them incumbency and the scandal-free nature of his administration.Undermining his re-election is a lack of charisma and leadership on key issues, says Lichtman, even including healthcare, Obama’s crowning achievement.
Lichtman developed his 13 Keys in 1981. They test the performance of the party that holds the presidency. If six or more of the 13 keys go against the party in power, then the opposing party wins.“The keys have figured into popular politics a bit,” Lichtman says. “They’ve never missed. They’ve been right seven elections in a row. A number that goes way beyond statistical significance in a record no other system even comes close to.”
They’ve been right seven elections in a row about the popular vote. See Wikipedia’s precis of what the Keys predicted for Bush and Gore in 2000. For fair-use reasons, I can’t excerpt Lichtman’s analysis of how the 13 Keys will play out for Obama next year, so follow the link up top and read through. He’s got The One winning on nine of 13 counts:
1. No contested primary
3. No third-party candidate
4. Major domestic-policy changes in his first term
5. No social unrest
6. No major scandals
7. No major foreign-policy failures
8. Major foreign-policy achievements in his first term (killing Bin Laden)
9. Little charisma by his likely opponent
The GOP wins three categories:
1. The incumbent’s party lost seats in the last House election
2. The long-term economy looks poor
3. Little charisma by the incumbent
One other criterion, the state of the economy during the campaign, is undecided because no one knows yet how the short-term trends will look. In other words, if I’m reading this correctly, the GOP will be within one Key of winning the presidency if (a) economic indicators look bad next year, which is only too grimly plausible, and (b) they nominate someone charismatic, like, say, Rick Perry. (What the threshold is for measuring “charisma,” I have no idea.) In which case, how can Lichtman seriously say, “I don’t see how Obama can lose”? Especially since, surreally, he’s counting the stimulus, which the public reviles, and ObamaCare, about which the public is deeply suspicious, as a point in Obama’s favor because they are, after all, major “changes” to American domestic policy. By that standard, even the dumbest, most hated piece of legislation should be treated as an asset to a presidential campaign so long as it’s significant enough to constitute “major change.” If you flip that Key to the GOP, then you’ve got six for the Republicans — enough to take the White House by Lichtman’s own metrics.
All of which assumes, of course, that this will be an ordinary election like the past seven were. Maybe it will; maybe there’s no such thing as an extraordinary election. But the state of the economy is surely extraordinary, poised as it is for a double-dip, and unemployment is extraordinary compared to any other era over the past 75 years. That is to say, we’re assuming that these “Keys” are equally weighted in election after election, no matter the circumstances, when basic awareness of the current political climate suggests the two economic Keys will be weighted way more heavily than any of the others. Can’t wait to see how it plays out. If, heaven forbid, we do end up in another recession and The One wins anyway, then maybe Lichtman really is a genius.