Does Biden get the Keys to the White Hosue?

Several years ago, I became fascinated by a history professor at American University named Allan Lichtman and his book Predicting the Next President, The Keys to the White House.  In his book, he laid out 13 keys to predicting a President.  Over the last several decades, Professor Lichtman has been correct.  Well, there was that like Bush v. Gore with the hanging chads and Gore getting the popular vote and Bush the electoral college, so there is an argument if he nailed that one or not.  However, here is my assessment using Lichtman’s 13 keys and who will win 2020.  This is a long post, so those who are not interested in reading any further it is Vice President Biden.  How did I get there?  Keep reading.

I will give a short definition of each key as we go along, plagiarized from the book. The short title, whether the statement is true or false, and the tally thus far, will follow the definition.  If the trues outnumber the falses, then the incumbent wins the White House.  I do want to point out, most of the keys have little to do with the former Vice President and mainly to do with the current landscape and are pretty objective.

Key 1 – Incumbent-party mandate – At the end of the midterm elections, did the incumbent party hold more seats in the US House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections? False (1). The Democrats took control of the House, so obviously, they gained more seats than they had before.  They had a net gain of 41 seats.

Key 2 – Nomination contest –  There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination. True (1).  President Trump did face competition, but it was never considered a serious challenge. 

Key 3 – Incubency – the incumbent party candidate is the sitting President. True (2).  President Trump is the sitting President.

Key 4 – Third-Party – There is not a  significant third-party or independent campaign.  True (3).  There is no serious third party challenge for 2020.

Key 5 – Short-term economy – The United States is not in a recession during the election campaign.  False-ish (2).  This could have easily been for President Trump because before COVID-19, the messaging was that the economy was strong and doing well.  I do recall back in October, and numerous economists were stating that we were at the early stages of a recession.  An indicator of a looming recession is an inverted yield curve for Treasury bills/bonds.  In December of 2018, the curve inverted, then in August 2019, and most recently, January 2020.  The political definition of a recession is two consecutive quarters of negative real gross domestic product growth. So technically, the U.S. economy entered a recession at the end of the second quarter, 2020. 

Key 6 – Long-term economy –  The average real annual per capita GDP growth rate during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the two previous terms. True-ish (4)  if we stopped data in December 2019.  However, a more than 5% decline in the first quarter of 2020 and a more than 30% decline (annualized) in the second quarter makes this key false.  Still, the economic situation is so unpredictable due to the coronavirus, it is hard to determine the state of the long term economy.

Key 7 – Policy change – The incumbent administration has had a significant effect on our national policies. True (5).  With his use of executive powers and the removal of the US from the Paris Accord, the Iran Nuclear Deal, the partial appeal of the Affordable Care Act, and the termination of the DACA program, it is easy to say that President Trump has changed the direction of US policy since the Obama Administration.

Key 8 – Social unrest – There is no sustained social unrest during the term.  False (3).  Over the last few months, it is evident that there is social unrest.  If President Trump can get this under control in the next 60 days, he may be able to pull this key back, but for now, it is a key he has lost.

Key 9 = Scandal –The incumbent is untainted by major scandal.  False (4). Impeachment. Trump tax returns.  Trump Foundation.  Indictments.  I could continue to list, but you get the point.

Key 10 – Foreign or military failure. – The incumbent administration suffers no major failures in foreign or military affairs. False – depends (5).  This depends on one’s point of view.  If one views the Paris Accord, Iran Nuclear Deal, imposing tariffs, relationship with North Korea, relationship with Russia as failures, then this is not a key for President Trump.  However, if you consider all of these are successes, then it is a key for Trump.  I think it is a failure, thus false.  Since I have a definite bias, I went and checked several polls to see if the average voter believes that Trump is taking the US in a positive direction with foreign policy.  Looking at Real Clear Politics, their average across five polls is that 54.2% disapprove, and 41.6% approve. 

Key 11 – Foreign or military success – The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. False- depends (6). Like I listed in Key 10, it depends on your point of view.  This is a key that if 10 is false, 11 must be false.  I agree since they offset each other, are they two keys or just one.  However, its not my evaluation criteria but Professor Lichtman’s. 

Key 12 – The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.  False with a lot of bias (7).   There is a significant portion of Trump Supports that hail Donald Trump as some sort of messiah.  You don’t get that without charisma.  However, I am looking at this from a broad voters’ perspective, and according to Dr Lichtman, you must be broadly inspirational to the general public.   For giggles, I googled it.  Of course, there was a list.  President Trump didn’t do too well, getting 8%.   I am sure the first thing someone will say, it was biased against Republicans, Clinton or Obama indeed won it.  Nope, Ronald Reagan by a landslide. 

Key 13 –   The challenging party candidate I not charismatic or a national hero.  False-with a lot of bias (8).  Charisma is not something that you will find in a Google search with Joe Biden.  However, not charismatic isn’t either.  However, the majority of voters see him as a national hero ready to take on President Trump.  Kind of a David and Goliath type of affair. 

The tally.  True 5 and False 8.  President Trump will lose in November