Thirteen keys to the White House

I just ran into this through Errol Louis, in his Daily News column. Until now I knew nothing whatsoever about Allan Lichtman, a professor at American University, who developed these keys to presidential election success or failure.

I just pulled them from Wikipedia, because Louis cites only six in determining that Trump will lose the election. (Lichtman says if six of these thirteen key statements are false, the incumbent loses.)

I found this summary on Wikipedia trenchant, as well as intriguing — my bolding. So maybe Joe Biden’s lower-key approach, necessitated by COVID, to the campaign will work just fine.

The Keys are based on the theory that presidential election results turn primarily on the performance of the party controlling the White House and that campaigning by challenging or incumbent-party candidates will have no impact on results. According to this theory, a pragmatic American electorate chooses a president based on the performance of the party holding the White House as measured by the consequential events and episodes of a term – economic boom and bust, foreign policy successes and failures, social unrest, scandal, and policy innovation.

According to the theory, if the nation fares well during the term of the incumbent party, that party wins another four years in office; otherwise, the challenging party prevails. According to the Keys model, nothing that a candidate has said or done during a campaign, when the public discounts conventional electioneering as political spin, has changed their prospects at the polls. Debates, advertising, television appearances, news coverage, and campaign strategies count for virtually nothing on Election Day.

Here are the full thirteen:

  1. Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections.
  2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
  3. Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  4. Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
  5. Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  6. Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
  7. Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
  8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
  9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  12. Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
  13. Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

I’m counting at least seven against Trump (unless you consider that utterly ignoring national policy is a major change). And Trump = charisma? Boy, is that a matter of taste.

And how many major scandals can be counted under Number 9?


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2 Responses to Thirteen keys to the White House

  1. Myra Friedman says:

    What if there is no election? What if there is one but people are stopped from voting? What if the US has been taken over by another country like Russia?

    • Naomi says:

      That’s a complex series of possibilities. But I can’t envision them, mostly because I’m an optimist. As furious as I can be with the 80,000 dimwits, I wear a t-shirt which reads, “I’m one of 65,844,610 Americans against Trump.” I keep thinking about and referring to those multi-millions, as well as our long history of stumbling toward democracy and I can’t despair. Moreover, I did a bit of practical research and learned that fewer than 25% of registered voters support Trump. And that number cropped up at least 6 months ago — before what we’re living with now. So: I expect an election, I expect some right-wing turmoil over it, I also expect that turmoil will further arouse and add to the 65 million against Trump, and Russia? Nah. If Putin weren’t a murderous autocrat, he’d be in even a worse position than Trump. Who is living now in a bunker.

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