Allan Lichtman’s model for predicting presidential elections, The Keys To The White House, has correctly predicted the results of seven straight presidential elections, and the keys say that Obama will be reelected in 2012.
Lichtman’s model is based on 13 keys which evaluate the performance of the man who holds the presidency. If six or more of the keys go against the president’s party, the incumbent loses.
Here are the 13 keys and how they stack up for Obama via U.S. News’ Washington Whispers:
1). Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. Says Lichtman, “Even back in January 2010 when I first released my predictions, I was already counting on a significant loss.” Obama loses this key.
2).Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination. Says Lichtman on Obama’s unchallenged status, “I never thought there would be any serious contest against Barack Obama in the Democratic primary.” Obama wins this key.
3). Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president. Easy win here for Obama.
4). Third Party: There is no significant third party challenge. Obama wins this point.
5). Short term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. Here Lichtman declares an “undecided.”
6). Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. Says Lichtman, “I discounted long term economy against Obama. Clearly we are in a recession.” Obama loses this key.
7). Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. “There have been major policy changes in this administration. We’ve seen the biggest stimulus in history and an complete overhaul of the healthcare system so I gave him policy change,” says the scholar. Another win for Obama.
8). Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term. Says Lichtman, “There wasn’t any social unrest when I made my predictions for 2012 and there still isn’t.” Obama wins a fifth key here.
9). Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal. “This administration has been squeaky clean. There’s nothing on scandal,” says Lichtman. Another Obama win.
10). Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. Says Lichtman, “We haven’t seen any major failure that resembles something like the Bay of Pigs and don’t foresee anything.” Obama wins again.
11). Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. “Since Osama bin Laden was found and killed, I think Obama has achieved military success.” Obama wins his eighth key.
12). Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. Explains Lichtman, “I did not give President Obama the incumbent charisma key. I counted it against him. He’s really led from behind. He didn’t really take the lead in the healthcare debate, he didn’t use his speaking ability to move the American people during the recession. He’s lost his ability to connect since the 2008 election.” Obama loses this key.
13). Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. Says Lichtman, “We haven’t seen any candidate in the GOP who meets this criteria and probably won’t.” Obama wins, bringing his total to nine keys, three more than needed to win reelection.
These keys measure the things that have historically caused an incumbent president to lose his reelection bid. As you can see, Obama stacks up pretty well. The current president wins 9 keys and loses 4. One of the major assets to Obama’s reelection effort which isn’t measured by the keys is the lack of popularity of the opposition party. Republicans are much less popular than Obama.
There are several components needed to defeat an incumbent president, a charismatic candidate, a good message, a yearning for change in the electorate, but none is more important than basic popularity. The Republican controlled House is historically unpopular. None of the Republican presidential candidates have high approval ratings with all voters. As John Kerry demonstrated in 2004, a successful nominee can’t win with a campaign message of I’m not him. It takes more.
In order to defeat an incumbent, a challenger must prove that they would not only be a better president, but that they have a plan that voters can get behind. The planning part is where the wheels completely fall off for the 2012 GOP candidates. As a group they have been pushed so far to the right on issues like Social Security, Medicare, unemployment benefits, job creation, and raising taxes on the wealthy that they are virtually unelectable.
Presidential elections are now 30 second ad personality contests. Obama may have struggled to connect as president, but he is still the best campaigner of his generation. (Bill Clinton was the very best that I have ever witnessed on the stump. Reagan was the most disciplined). Frankly, voters still personally like Obama, and I would not bet against him wooing them on the campaign trail again.
Republicans love themselves a tough talking cowboy, which is why Rick Perry is threatening to run away with the GOP nomination, but after 8 years of George W. Bush, there is little chance that the American people are going to put his Lt. Governor in the White House. Perry is the tea party’s feel good candidate, but would be the Joe Miller/Christine O’Donnell/Sharon Angle tea party train wreck of a nominee.
Lichtman’s model has gone 7 for 7, and with the way the Republican Party is imploding, 8 for 8 wouldn’t surprise anyone.