TORONTO — As the 2020 U.S. presidential continues to take shape following the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, one man says he already knows who will win.
American historian Allan Lichtman has correctly predicted every U.S. presidential election winner since 1984, and this year he says Democratic nominee Joe Biden will be the next president of the United States.
“I am predicting, contrary to my 2016 predictions, that with seven keys out against him — one more than is needed to predict his defeat — Trump is going to lose this time,” Lichtman told CTV’s Your Morning on Thursday.
Lichtman was one of the only forecasters who predicted U.S. President Donald Trump’s victory in 2016. At the time he also correctly predicted that Trump would be impeached.
“In 2016 I defied all the conventional wisdom and made myself very unpopular in 90 per cent plus Democratic Washington, D.C. by predicting a Trump victory,” Lichtman said.
Lichtman uses a system he calls the “13 keys” to predict who will win the White House.
The keys are essentially a collection of true or false questions, Lichtman explains. A true answer is a point for the incumbent candidate or party, while false is a point for the challenger. Only two keys are based on the candidates’ traits.
“My model is unique. It’s based on the insight that American presidential elections are essentially votes up or down on the strength and performance of the party holding the White House,” Lichtman said.
“In other words, the voters are pragmatic. Do you deserve four more years? They’re not fooled by the tricks and turns of the campaign, the attack strategies. The keys look at the big picture.”
The 13 keys in his system include such factors as incumbency, candidate’s charisma, long-term and short-term economic figures, social unrest and scandals, as well as foreign or military successes and failures.
While it may seem confusing to some, Lichtman says the system is actually “very simple.”
“You don’t even have to take your shoes off to use it. If six of the 13 go against the party holding the White House, they are predicted losers,” he said.
According to Lichtman’s system, seven of the 13 keys favour Biden and six favour Trump, meaning the keys predict Trump will lose.
U.S. polls currently agree with Lichtman’s prediction with Biden showing stronger numbers.
However, Lichtman cautions that his system does not account for unforeseen circumstances such as the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Something that big will trigger keys, and the pandemic, because it resulted in the economic calamity, resulted in the loss of two keys. Remember, it only takes six [keys] to count you out,” Lichtman said.
Due to the health crisis, Lichtman says the Trump administration lost the short-term economy key because the pandemic sent the U.S. into a recession, in addition to the long-term economy key because the recession drastically pulled down the average economic growth.
He added that the administration’s handling of the pandemic also contributed to the loss of a third key: social unrest.
Despite his prediction, Lichtman acknowledges that he could “of course” be wrong.
“I’m a human being, my system is based on history. I don’t have a crystal ball and I noted a couple of things that really could mess things,” Lichtman said, adding that the controversy over mail-in voting may ultimately turn the tide for a Trump win.
In 2000, Lichtman predicted that Al Gore would win the U.S. presidential election. Although Gore won the popular vote, he ultimately lost the presidency to George W. Bush after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled to stop the recount of Florida’s electoral votes. Lichtman says he stands by validity of his prediction.
While he’s confident in this year’s forecast, Lichtman says he still gets nervous making it known.
“I’ve been doing this for 40 years, I’m 73 years old, and I still get butterflies in my stomach when I put myself out every four years,” he said.
Lichtman said voter suppression and possible Russian interference are the factors worrying him.
“Republicans depend on old white guys like me, but you can’t create more old white guys. You can’t make us live to be 150, but the Republicans, led by Trump, are trying it seems to restrict the vote of the rising Democratic base of minorities and young people,” Lichtman said.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee spent three years investigating Russia’s interference in the 2016 election and concluded that Trump welcomed and exploited Russian intervention, saying he would do it again if the opportunity presented itself.
“That could throw off any system,” Lichtman said.
While his forecast this year could be wrong, Lichtman says it won’t deter him from predicting future U.S. presidents. However, he is looking for someone to take over the job.
“Yes, I will start again. If I’m wrong, I think nine [presidents] out of 10 is still good. But I’m 73 and I’m making a call out there for my successor, I can’t keep doing this forever,” he said.