The Real Keys to the White House

In the era of Donald Trump, attempting to predict elections or political trends in general has increasingly become a fool’s errand. Even more foolish are those who try to explain their predictions, for they only give more rope by which to hang themselves.

Perhaps even more egregious than the foaming-at-the-mouth commentators of CNN, who simply spout the same talking points about Trump being evil and then move on, is the so-called “intellectual” who tries to couch his anti-Trump predictions with an ostensibly respectable approach of citing historical patterns, never minding that said patterns have long since been thrown out the window.

And the greatest culprit of this kind of faux intellectualism is “Professor” Allan Lichtman, the creator of the “13 Keys to the White House” model of predicting presidential elections.

The Standard 13 Keys

For those who don’t know, the “13 Keys” model is a list of true-or-false statements about the current state of American politics, from domestic and foreign policy to the specifics of the presidential primaries. The rule is that if six or more of the keys are false, then the incumbent party will lose.

The 13 Keys are:

  1. Party Mandate: The incumbent party holds more seats in the House of Representatives after the midterm elections.
  2. No primary contest: The incumbent president does not have a major challenger from within their own party.
  3. Incumbent seeking re-election: The incumbent party is the sitting president.
  4. No third-party: No major third-party challengers.
  5. Strong short-term economy: The economy is healthy in the short term under the current president.
  6. Strong long-term economy: The economy is healthy in the long term under the current president.
  7. Major policy change: At least one major policy change or law has been signed under the incumbent president.
  8. No social unrest: No major riots or protest movements on the incumbent’s watch.
  9. No scandal: The incumbent president has not undergone a major scandal.
  10. No foreign policy failure: There has not been a major foreign policy or military loss under the incumbent president.
  11. Foreign policy success: There has been a major foreign policy or military victory under the incumbent president.
  12. Charismatic incumbent: The incumbent is a popular and charismatic figure.
  13. Uncharismatic challenger: The challenger is not a popular and charismatic figure.

First developed in 1981, this model has been used to correctly predict every presidential election since 1984, with the sole exception of the 2000 election. However, like most other political norms, even this once-sacred model, and particularly its creator, has come under greater scrutiny with the rise of President Trump.

The keys were largely correct in 2016, though notably ranked the “no foreign policy failure” key as true despite the rise of ISIS during Obama’s second term, which led to Obama sending American troops back into Iraq after previously withdrawing them in his first term. However, as this would not have changed the final outcome of Lichtman’s prediction, this can be glossed over easily enough.

Cracks in the 13 Keys

But 2020 was the year that Lichtman flew completely off the rails and no longer attempted to even hide his anti-Trump views, letting his partisan bias affect his own ostensibly impartial model.

While Lichtman was correct with regards to the “party mandate” and “social unrest” keys, he bizarrely claimed that both the long-term and short-term economies were poor under Trump. Even if one concedes to the short-term damage caused by the Chinese virus, only a delusional fool would claim with a straight face that the long-term economy—from the low unemployment, low prices, and record-high stock market—was not strong under Trump when it was in fact the strongest economy in decades.

Lichtman also declared that the “no scandal” key was false for Trump. Even though virtually all of the “scandals” under Trump’s presidency were in fact media-manufactured and mostly debunked as hoaxes (chief among them the absurd “Russian collusion hoax”), one could begrudgingly admit to this key actually being false, since media perception is everything when it comes to the idea of a political “scandal.” For the sake of argument, let’s give this one to Lichtman as well.

The single most egregious mistake Lichtman made in his model in 2020 was to unironically declare that President Trump had no major foreign policy successes in his first term. If one were to remove the Trump Derangement Syndrome goggles for just a moment and look at his foreign accomplishments objectively, any one of them could easily qualify as a victory: Most prominently would be the complete destruction of ISIS, the very thing that was the bane of Obama’s foreign policy in his second term; Trump oversaw the full eradication of the physical caliphate and the raid that killed its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Other notable wins would include the historic Abraham Accord peace deals between Israel and multiple Arab states, as well as the first-ever peaceful negotiations with North Korea and the USMCA being signed to replace NAFTA.

Thus, if Lichtman’s model was judged correctly and not through the professor’s extreme but well-hidden case of TDS, then the only keys that would still be false for President Trump in 2020 would be: Party mandate, short-term economy, no social unrest, and no scandal. Only 4 keys were false, well below the 6 requisite for an incumbent’s loss.

Therefore, to put it most simply: Lichtman’s precious model was wrong in 2020. He had to artificially change the outcomes of several keys just to maintain its supposedly “perfect” record. With this pretense of unbiased calculation completely dropped, Lichtman had no reason to do anything except double down.

Lichtman’s 13 Keys

Lichtman’s model is set to be even more contentious in the 2024 election than it was in 2020. As it currently stands, Lichtman says that the only two keys which are currently false are the “party mandate” and “charismatic incumbent” keys. He currently ranks both the “foreign victory” and “foreign failure” keys, as well as the “no third-party” key, as “lean false.” If these three hold true, then that will already be five keys false against Biden; one more would mean defeat.

Of course, the fact that Lichtman even has a “lean” category in either direction is indicative of his blatant bias. Biden already racked up a massive foreign policy defeat by the end of his first year in office with the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, which received universal condemnation at home and abroad. His foreign policy has only further deteriorated with the outbreak of wars in Ukraine and Israel, with additional crises in Yemen and Taiwan. For Lichtman to pretend that the “no foreign failure” key—or, for that matter, the “foreign success” key—is somehow still up for debate shows how quickly the man has rejected any semblance of impartiality in his model’s assessment of current trends.

Lichtman doubled down on his support for Biden in a recent CNN interview, even going so far as to cope with his 2000 election prediction being wrong by claiming that he still got it right, since Al Gore won the popular vote against George W. Bush. Of course, this would also mean that he got the 2016 election wrong as well, since Hillary Clinton did win the popular vote over President Trump, but naturally, the professor didn’t face any pushback from the interviewer on that inconsistency.

Lichtman also downplayed the “no social unrest” key, even though the anti-Israel protests have already spiraled out of control on college campuses from New York to Los Angeles, and the summer hasn’t even begun yet. He similarly tried to dismiss the significance of Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s candidacy, despite him being the highest-polling third-party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992. An objective assessment would declare both of these keys to be false; thus, with the “party mandate,” “charismatic incumbent,” “no foreign failure,” “foreign success,” “no third-party,” and “no social unrest’ keys all being false, there are six keys false against Biden, thus meaning that he loses.

But it doesn’t stop there. Lichtman’s 2024 model currently ranks both the short-term and long-term economy as strong under Biden. The average American would surely be left scratching their heads, wondering how a supposedly educated man could declare without the slightest hint of hesitation that the economy is strong in both the short- and long-term, with inflation remaining stubbornly high even despite “experts’” predictions to the contrary, as well as the Federal Reserve’s best efforts to bring it down. At best, one could make the same argument as for President Trump’s first term: The long-term economy may be strong, but the short-term economy is objectively already under the dumpster. That’s seven keys against Biden.

Lastly, there remain the “no scandal” and “major policy change” keys. Biden undoubtedly is embroiled in scandals, ranging from the antics of his son Hunter to the impeachment of Alejandro Mayorkas, among many other matters that have even drawn some scrutiny from the mainstream media, including increasing questions about his cognitive decline. Similarly, there has been no monumental foreign policy change under Biden, but rather a series of smaller agenda items such as the gun control bill, the pro-gay marriage bill, and the infrastructure bill. For the sake of argument, let’s give both of these keys to Biden as “true.”

There is one final key that is by far the most contentious of the 13: The question of charisma. While Lichtman accurately declared both Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden to be uncharismatic, he has made the grave mistake of making the same statement about President Trump, now three elections in a row.

Say whatever you will about Donald Trump. Democrats, and especially far-left professors like Lichtman, would hate him even if he invented the cure for cancer and solved world hunger in the same day. But the question is not about Democrats’ views of his charisma anymore than it would be about Republicans’ views of Obama’s charisma. Objectively speaking, a man with such an undyingly loyal following as President Trump, who commands such passionate and enthusiastic support at his rallies and who holds the highest approval ratings among Republicans of any Republican president in modern history, is objectively a charismatic individual. Why else would his poll numbers keep going up with each criminal indictment, if not for his sheer charisma?

The Real 13 Keys

Thus, if Lichtman’s hatred of Trump is removed from the equation, the 13 Keys model for 2024 currently stands as follows:

  1. Party mandate: False
  2. No primary contest: True
  3. Incumbent seeking re-election: True
  4. No third-party: False
  5. Strong short-term economy: False
  6. Strong long-term economy: Leans False
  7. Major policy change: Leans True
  8. No social unrest: False
  9. No scandal: Leans False
  10. No foreign policy failure: False
  11. Foreign policy success: False
  12. Charismatic incumbent: False
  13. Uncharismatic challenger: False

With 8 keys false and two more keys leaning false, that’s a staggering 10 keys against Biden, with only two being true and one leaning true. It would be the most lopsided prediction in the 40-year history of this model.

Lichtman is clearly banking on voter fraud stealing the 2024 election just as the 2020 election was stolen, in the hopes that his almighty model will be validated once again. Thus, a defeat for Joe Biden would also mean a crushing defeat for Allan Lichtman and perhaps the permanent retirement of his idiotic prediction model as just another norm that was crushed by the rise of Donald Trump. And the world would be better off for it.

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About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22). He is currently a co-host of The Right Take podcast.

Photo: American University history professor Allan Lichtman gives a lecture on his "Thirteen Keys to the White House" at American University in Washington on October 28, 2008. Lichtman believes he has the secret to predicting who will win the vote in any US presidential election and he has the record since 1984 to prove it. "The 13 Keys to the White House" -- a system he developed 27 years ago with mathematician Volodia Keilis-Borok -- has proven right in every White House race since then, he told AFP. AFP PHOTO / Nicholas KAMM (Photo by Nicholas KAMM / AFP) (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM-/AFP via Getty Images)