Allan Lichtman says Joe Biden will win, but will Covid-19 pandemic cause his first election prediction upset?

Lichtman's theory is centered on 13 diagnostic questions known as the 'Keys' that are stated as propositions that favor reelection of the incumbent party


                            Allan Lichtman says Joe Biden will win, but will Covid-19 pandemic cause his first election prediction upset?
Allan Lichtman (Getty Images)

Election Day 2020 feels a lot like it did in 2016 -- early results are still showing it could be a toss-up between current US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden, however, Trump is shown to be behind. There was a similar situation in 2016, but when Donald Trump was declared the winner of the Presidential elections that year, nearly everyone was shocked, except perhaps, Allan Lichtman, a historian who has taught at American University in Washington, DC since 1973. Lichtman correctly predicted that Trump would be the 45th President and went on to state that Trump would also be impeached.

For Democrats, Lichtman's 2020 prediction is a bit more friendly -- he predicts that Biden will beat Trump to become the 46th President of the United States. Lichtman's statement is based on a prediction model he created in 1981 with Russian seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok -- this model has correctly predicted every winner of the US presidential elections since 1984. The model uses 13 True/False criteria to predict whether the candidate of an incumbent party will win or lose the next election to become the President.

Lichtman described the theory in his 1996 book, 'The Keys to the White House', in which he wrote that 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.

The theory is centered on 13 diagnostic questions known as the "Keys"  that are stated as propositions that favor reelection of the incumbent party. When five or fewer statements are false, the incumbent party is predicted to win the popular vote; when six or more are false, the challenging party is predicted to win the popular vote. While Trump looked likely to win earlier this year, the Covid-19 pandemic may have cost him two of those keys: those encompassing economic conditions and social unrest. As such, seven of 13 keys are against Trump, indicating that Joe Biden could become the next President.

However, Sheldon H Jacobson, PhD, a professor of computer science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign cautions that the Covid-19 pandemic may upset Lichtman's Keys-based prediction. Jacobson wrote for The Hill stating that the quality of the input is important for prediction models and since the Keys model is based on historical data and given that "there has never been a public health event of the size and scope" of the pandemic, "the data used to create the 13 keys and the true/false rules could not have interpreted the economic downturns driven by a public health crisis." Additionally, the deciding factor of the model comes down to whether the current President is charismatic. While Lichtman states that Trump is not, in fact, charismatic, Jacobson writes that the charisma key may turn true because of the motivation of Trump's supporters, and therefore, the model may not hold true.

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