American University history professor Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984 — nine in a row — and even correctly forecast last year that Donald Trump would be impeached. As the 2020 presidential campaign kicks into higher gear with the start of the election year, Lichtman may have some bad news for the sitting president.
According to veteran political journalist John Stoehr, writing for the Editorial Board, Trump believed the assassination of Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani — Iran’s top military leader and one of the country’s most popular political figures — would benefit him politically. However, Stoehr wrote that his move appears to have backfired — and Lichtman appears to agree. Rather than giving Trump a boost in the 2020 election, the president may have hurt his own chances, according to Lichtman’s prediction system.
Lichtman, the author of the 2008 book The Keys to the White House: A Surefire Guide to Predicting the Next President, has a prediction system that is based largely on a 13-point list. Each point is a factual statement, or “key,” such as “the economy is not in recession during the election campaign,” and “the incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.”
According to a report on Lichtman’s system published Tuesday by Salon, if the incumbent president’s party is able to mark at least seven of the 13 statements as “true,” then that party’s candidate will win the presidency.
Trump so far has three “keys” that will definitely be marked false, according to Lichtman, who also says that Trump has six keys in his favor. That means four of the statements could go either way.
Two of those statements that are currently in limbo pertain to an incumbent president’s military successes or failures. Key number 10 states that the incumbent suffers no significant military failures, while number 11 says that he achieves a major military or foreign policy success.
“Trump might get a short-term boost from the killing,” Lichtman told Salon writer Matthew Rozsa. But in the long term, the assassination of Soleimani appears more likely to be judged a failure.
“I am hard pressed to see this leading to a long-term success,” he told Salon. “It could cement in the failure key against Trump if it results in significant harm to the United States.”
As Trump’s rationale for the assassination — that Soleimani had an “imminent” attack against the U.S. in the works — appears to unravel, the attack may end up costing Trump both the 10 and 11 keys on Lichtman’s list. That would give Trump five “false” statements, with two remaining to be decided — casting Trump’s reelection chances into serious peril, according to Lichtman’s prediction system.