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Features & Columns

Professor Who Has Correctly Predicted Every Presidential Race Since 1984 Makes 2020 Pick

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Professor Who Has Correctly Predicted Every Presidential Race Since 1984 Makes 2020 Pick

2020-08-06 18:08:16

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Images: Joe Biden and Donald Trump (Image sources: Screenshot and Screenshot)


With three months to go until the presidential election, there are quite a few opinions on who will be the victor. Donald Trump's favorability has been falling for several months because of the way he has handled the coronavirus pandemic, the way it affected the economy, and the way he handled the racial unrest after the death of George Floyd.

But Democrats are skittish about calling him the favorite to win after thinking former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a lock on the contest in 2016, only to be slackjawed when Trump was declared the victor that night.

But there is one person who predicted a 2016 Trump win and who has predicted each presidential win since 1984 correctly as well, history professor Allan Lichtman. He's ready to make this year's prediction.

He has a different formula for determining the winner, and perhaps that's why he was one of the very few who correctly predicted a Trump win. He focuses on the issues voters care about most instead of on pollsters and polling data.

"The pollsters and the pundits cover elections as though they were horse races," explains Lichtman. "But history tells us voters are not fooled by the tricks of the campaign. Voters vote pragmatically according to how well the party holding the White House has governed the country."

Lichtman outlined his formula in his book, "Keys to the White House." There are 13 categories that focus on the strengths of the incumbent party. These are answered in true-false statements.

CNBC provided a list of the 13 categories and Lichtman's answers for 2020 to determine the winner of the Trump-Biden contest.

  1. Party Mandate: after the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the House than it did after the previous elections. False.
  1. Contest: there is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination. True.
  1. Incumbency: the sitting president is running for reelection. True.
  1. Third Party: there is no major third-party challenge. True.
  1. Short-Term Economy:  the economy during the election season is not in recession. False.
  1. Long-Term Economy: real annual per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the two previous terms. False.
  1. Policy Change: the incumbent causes major changes in national policy. True.
  1. Social Unrest: there is no sustained social unrest during the campaign. False.
  1. Scandal: the incumbent administration is untainted by major scandals. False.
  1. Foreign or Military Failure: the incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. True.
  1. Foreign or Military Success: the incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. False.
  1. Incumbent Charisma: the incumbent party candidate is charismatic. False.
  1. Challenger Charisma: the challenging party candidate is not charismatic. True.

These answers led Lichtman to announce that Biden will win in November but by a small margin. "The keys predict that Trump will lose the White House," he said.

This time the professor isn't going against nationwide polls. Trump's approval rating and poll numbers have continued to drop, many times with a two-digit lead for Biden.

NPR currently shows Biden with a win with 297 to 170 electoral votes. A recent California poll shows Biden leading by 40 points. 

Even in many of the swing states, either Biden is leading, or Trump is barely hanging on to his lead.  The latest polls in Florida and Iowa show the two in a tie. Trump has very few states where he has a commanding lead but does in Kentucky.

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