Joe Biden will defeat President Donald Trump in the 2020 presidential election, predicts a historian who has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1984.
In a New York Times op-ed, Allan Lichtman, an author and history professor at American University, noted that traditional methods of predicting the winner of an election, which rely mainly on looking at polls and parsing out how votes are likely to play out in swing states, don’t provide the full picture.
“[Polls are] snapshots in time. None of this in the end has any impact whatsoever on the outcome of a presidential election,” wrote Lichtman, who was one of the few pundits who saw the writing on the wall in 2016 and, bucking the trend of most other political analysts, correctly predicted that Trump would win.
He also noted that political observers tend to treat the election like a horse race. But, he says, voters generally cast their ballots according to how well the party occupying the Oval Office is doing, whether the incumbent is running or not.
Specifically, Lichtman’s model looks at 13 “Keys to the White House,” as he calls them, which break down how the voting public feels about various issues. Each key is presented as a true-false statement; if a statement is true, it gives an advantage to the incumbent.
But if six or more statements are false, Lichtman’s system prognosticates a win for the challenger.
“The keys predict that Trump will lose the White House.”
One key that didn’t work in Trump’s favor was the question of whether or not the incumbent party has a “mandate.” In the 2018 midterm elections, Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives, so Trump earned a false. Another key looks at the current state of the economy, which, due to the coronavirus pandemic, is dismal right now, earning Trump’s incumbency another false.
Still, Trump did earn a true on a couple of other factors, including the fact that there does not appear to be any real challenge, however small, from an outlier, third-party candidate; nor has Trump presided over any disastrous military failures.
However, Lichtman also added a caveat to his prediction, noting that, “there are forces at play outside the keys,” including voter suppression and election meddling.
It wasn’t just Lichtman who recommended understanding his predictions within their context. Nate Silver, an analyst at FiveThirtyEight who himself predicted every state outcome in the 2012 election, had previously said that anything Lichtman predicts should be “taken with a grain of salt.”