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Predicting 2016: How the "13 Keys to the White House" Will Turn in 2016

Scott is a graduate student and historian who is interested in politics, social movements, education, and religion

Dr. Allan J. Lichtman. Professor of History, American University

Dr. Allan J. Lichtman. Professor of History, American University

"The principal historical lesson to be drawn from the Keys is that the fate of an incumbent administration rests largely in its own hands; there is little that the challenging party can do to affect the outcome of an election."3

3. Lichtman, The Keys to the White House, 2.

The "Keys" System


In the early 1980s professor Allan Lichtman developed, in collaboration with vulcanologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok, a system for predicting the behavior of the American electorate that is so accurate, he has successfully predicted every election since 1984, sometimes without even knowing who the challenging candidate will be. The Keys have likewise, retrospectively fit all previous elections since the modern party system began in 1860.

Spurning the usual approach to politics, Lichtman believes the American electorate to be smarter and more pragmatic than it is often given credit for. The people, in Lichtman's model, will reward the political party that serves it well and punish those that fail. The candidates themselves, and their associated campaign funds, make surprisingly little difference as many of the factors that lead people to the polls will have already been determined before all of the candidates even announce:

  • The study of history shows that a pragmatic American electorate chooses a president according to 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.1

Logic of the Keys

"The Keys are thirteen diagnostic questions that are stated as propositions favoring re-election of the incumbent party. When five or fewer of these propositions are false, or turned against the party holding the White House, that party wins another term in office. When Six or more are false, the challenging party wins."2 The keys balance the significant factors that the American public cares about, ranging from domestic to foreign achievements, from economic competence to trustworthiness. The individual candidates constitute only two of the thirteen keys, as detailed in the table below.

1. Lichtman, Allan J. The Keys to the White House: A Surefire Guide to Predicting the Next President 2008 ed. (New York: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers,, Inc. 2008), ix

2. Ibid.

Debates, advertising, television appearances, news coverage, and campaign strategies--the usual grist for the punditry mills--count for virtually nothing on Election Day. (Lichtman, 2)

Debates, advertising, television appearances, news coverage, and campaign strategies--the usual grist for the punditry mills--count for virtually nothing on Election Day. (Lichtman, 2)

Predicting 2016

The Keys system currently predicts a very close election in 2016. This author's analysis deems 11 Keys to have decidedly turned already. Recent developments in foreign policy however, have placed the 2 foreign policy Keys in question.

If the election were held today, I predict the Democrats would hold the White House. However, developments in foreign policy over the next year and a half have the capacity to turn the 2 critical foreign policy Keys against the Democrats. [March 2015]

[Updated- December 2015] In this author's judgment, the election is now too close to call. The persistence of the Black Lives Matter movement and social unrest sweeping the nation has brought domestic issues back into the fold of presidential politics. It is likely true, that the Democrats retain an edge, yet a Republican victory is looking more and more plausible.

[Updated-March 2016] In my view, the election is still a very close call, in part because of surprising results in the primary season. Assuming that Senator Sanders does not carry his campaign all the way to the convention, I tepidly predict that Hillary Clinton will be the next president. If, however, the Sanders campaign continues to push to the convention, then he may very well play spoiler to the Democrats' chances.

How the Keys Turn in 2016 [1st update]

KeyTruth of StatementCertainty

1: Party Mandate



2: Contested Nomination



3: Incumbent Status



4: Third Party Challenge



5: Short-term Economy



6: Long-term Economy



7: National Policy Shift



8: Social Unrest



9: Scandal



10: Foreign Policy Defeats



11: foreign Policy Success



12: Incumbent Charisma



13: Challenger Charisma




Democrats= 5 Republicans=4

4 uncertain

Updated February 2016 model

KeyTruth of StatementCertainty

1: Party Mandate



2: Contested Nomination



3: Incumbent Status



4: Third Party Challenge



5: Short-term Economy



6: Long-term Economy



7: National Policy Shift



8: Social Unrest



9: Scandal



10: Foreign Policy Defeats



11: Foreign Policy Success



12: Incumbent Charisma



13: Challenger Charisma




Democrats= 6 Republicans=4

3 uncertain

The Keys

(For a full analysis of each Key, and how it relates to history, please consider reading the very affordable and widely accessible book)

The State of the Party (Keys 1-4)

Key #1: Incumbent Party Mandate (R)

The incumbent party holds more seats in the House of Representatives after the midterm elections than it did after the previous midterm elections.

In the case of 2016, the question is whether the Democrats hold more seats in the House after 2014 than they did after 2010. They do not.

Key #2: Nomination Contest (D?)

There is no major contest for the incumbent party nomination, which signals an heir apparent for continued party leadership.

The Clinton campaign is unlikely to see the protracted primary battle witnessed in 2008. Bernie Sanders is a formidable candidate, yet it is highly unlikely that he will be able to keep up with Clinton's campaign. Joe Biden's announcement that he would not seek the nomination led to a double digit increase in Clinton's lead over Sanders.

[Updated February 2016] Through three primaries, Senator Sanders's insurgent campaign has pulled itself up into a virtual tie with Secretary Clinton's. Although Secretary Clinton has technically won 2 of those contests, the proportional distribution of delegates means that unless Secretary Clinton can produce some major victories on "Super Tuesday" she will not have enough delegates to earn the nomination outright. This could be catastrophic for Democrats in 2016. If no clear heir apparent emerges within the incumbent party, the opposition party will benefit.

Key #3: Incumbency (R)

The sitting president is running for reelection.

Obama will not be on the ticket. Faced with electing a new leader, the Democrats will have a tougher time convincing the nation that they are still in the best position to lead.

Key #4: 3rd Party Challenge (D)

There is NO significant 3rd Party or independent challenge.

Not since 1992 has any candidate made a significant 3rd party challenge and there is currently no powerful 3rd Party movement. Should Donald Trump decide to run as a third party candidate, it is possible that he could meet the threshold of turning this key against the Democrats. Conventional wisdom suggests that this run would hurt the Republicans more than the Dems., since it would split the Rep. voters.

[Updated] With Donald Trump looking to secure the Republican nomination, it is unlikely he will resort to a 3rd party challenge unless the GOP establishment turns to an open convention tactic and goes around the will of the voters. This is quite unlikely as, even then, no clear GOP alternative could likely procure a clean victory. Michael Bloomberg confirmed he will not enter the race. No other candidate has officially hopped in the ring, and no other candidate is likely to find a single issue that can galvanize 5% of more of the electorate.

The Economy (Keys 5-6)

Key #5: Short-term Economic Performance (D)

The economy is not in recession during the campaigning season.

All forecasts point toward continued growth, albeit some suggest conservative growth.

Key #6: Long-term Economic Growth (D)

Real annual per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

President Obama's second term easily outpaced the numbers seen in the Great Recession of his fist and President Bush's second terms.

National Policy (Keys 7-9)

Key #7: Major Domestic Policy Achievement/Shift (R)

The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

President Obama has largely spent his second term defending the policies of his his first term. His initiatives respecting immigration and gun control have stalled and are unlikely to pass a Republican congress in the future. Executive amnesty does not meet the burden of a policy achievement. His recent order to allow women into combat positions has largely been ignored by the electorate. Unfair as this is, women have already played an important role in combat operations this last decade and thus voters are unlikely to view this as game-changing legislation.

Key #8: Major Social Unrest (D)

There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

Unrest in Ferguson, Baltimore, and New York are isolated incidents that do not meet the standard of the Vietnam protests in the 1960s, the Bonus Army marches of the 1930s, or the Pullman strikes of the 1890s.

[Updated] The persistence of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as continued unrest in other major cities including Chicago has cast doubt on whether unrest will hurt the Democrats. Many Americans, including a majority of African Americans, believe that race relations have worsened since President Obama took office. With BLM protests pouring over into the education system it is likely that disenchanted youth and activists will stay home on election day, while conservatives united in opposition to "social justice warriors" show up to vote.

[Updated February 2016] BLM has received so much attention from both the Sanders and Clinton campaigns, including some endorsements, that it is unlikely social unrest will continue. Recent months have been more quiet, and even those few protests that have occurred, such as blocking the bridge in San Francisco have been met widespread disapproval. Furthermore, internal schisms resulting over the appropriation of funds between the two most important leaders Shaun King and DeRay McKesson have weakened the organization tremendously. BLM is now more likely to endorse a candidate then heckle them.

Key #9: Administration Scandal (D)

The administration is untainted by major scandals.

The IRS, AP, and Benghazi, scandals are principally viewed in partisan terms and thus more akin to the Iran-Contra scandal of the 1980s, not the Watergate scandal of the 1970s. Moreover, Secretary Clinton's performance at the Benghazi hearing only served to increase her popularity.

Foreign Policy (Keys 10-11)

Key #10: No Major Foreign Policy Defeats (uncertain)

The incumbent party suffers no major defeats or humiliations in foreign affairs.

Key #11: Major Foreign Policy Successes (uncertain)

The incumbent party achieves a major success in foreign politics.

(foreign policy is discussed at greater length below)

The Candidates (Keys 12-13)

Key #12: Charisma of Incumbent Party Candidate (R)

The incumbent party candidate is a national hero or exceptionally charismatic figure.

Key #13: Charisma of Challenger (D)

The challenging party candidate is NOT a national hero or exceptionally charismatic figure.

Neither party currently fields a candidate that possesses Ronald Reagan's or FDR's communication skills, nor Eisenhower's or Grant's hero status.


Foreign Policy is the Key in 2016

Until recently, there seemed to be little doubt that the Obama administration would split the foreign policy Keys, taking Key 10 (no major defeats or humiliations) while losing Key 11 (Major Policy Victory)

However, a series of ongoing policy debates coupled with the resurgence of militant Islamic terrorism threatens to turn both Keys against the Democrats as President Obama is moving closer to achieving no victories and suffering defeats.

Working Against the Administration

NSA Spying Scandal: While clearly a blight on the administration's record, reasonable people know that every state spies on every other (friends included) in so far as their technology allows for it. The U.S. spy policy is an open-secret, and having been caught in the act is not significant enough to turn Key 10 against the administration.

The Russian Invasion of the Ukraine: The Russian incursion into the Ukraine clearly taints the prestige of the Obama administration. One may go so far as to deem it a failure of the president to stand up to Putin. However, most Americans do not support military actions against Russia and the Ukraine is not a member state of NATO and therefore the U.S. was under no obligation to defend it. While this hurts the Democrats, it is not enough to turn Key 10 against the administration.

The Rise of ISIS: So long as ISIS remains strong, President Obama will be perceived as weak. As ISIS has been around since 2003, this is not exactly a new development, yet their recent "rise in the media's eyes" has made them a "new" policy problem (continued terrorist attacks in the West carried out by Islamic fighters has strengthened this perception). Furthermore, the president's embarrassing "ISIS is contained" comment just before the terror attacks on France, Nigeria, Russia and Lebanon has given credence to the charge that president is naive about the threat. If Iran continues to gain influence in Iraq as the U.S. losses influence, or should ISIS create new crises in the MIddle East, this could potentially turn Key 10 against the administration. For now the problem remains mostly localized--deemed to be part of a larger, decade-long conflict that is not primarily the fault of the administration.

The Collapse of Yemen: Not long ago, the administration considered Yemen to be a victory for its drone and special forces heavy strategy. As a key ally in the War on Terror, Yemen was not quite indispensable, but very significant. Should Yemen continue to deteriorate, and.or should Iran and the Saudis begin a proxy war in that state, it could be a major policy disaster for the United States. It is too soon to tell.

Deteriorating Relations with Israel: Israel and the United States have long been allies, and a firm majority of both nations wish to remain so. Most people understand that a falling out of national leaders is not synonymous with a falling out of nations. Still, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu have clearly outlined divergent agendas and goals for the future of the alliance. This is not enough to turn the policy against the administration in itself, particularly as it is almost unthinkable that the alliance will collapse within the next year, but it has contributed alongside other foreign policy considerations to a sense of defeat in foreign affairs.

Working For the Administration

Normalizing Relations with Cuba: The administration's attempt to normalize relations with Cuba represents a long overdue change in policy that enjoys the support of a bipartisan swath of the electorate. However, this achievement is, generally speaking, not significant in the larger picture of American policy. The economic consequences of new trade with Cuba will not be significant, and from a military standpoint, the Cubans pose no threat. As there is no longer a Soviet State protecting/exploiting Cuba, U.S. policy towards the island nation is not a top-tier consideration. This is not enough to turn Key 11 for the administration.

New Trade Agreements: No amount of new free trade agreements, however successful, will constitute an achievement for the administration. Free trade is the basis of both party's economic agenda.

The Key issue for 2016: The Iran Nuclear Deal and Repairing Relations with Israel

The key to Democrats securing the necessary Keys to retain the White House may well come down to the Iran Nuclear Deal. If President Obama's administration successfully negotiates a deal with Iran to stop its nuclear program without a war, this (however unpopular) will be a major achievement in foreign politics, unrivaled in significance since Reagan and Gorbachev sat down to reduce the nuclear threat in the 1980s. The strength of this deal, will likely lead Americans to look past the other calamities in the Middle East, which has long been torn apart by war, and see a fresh achievement akin to the Camp David Accords.

If however, the deal goes under or (even worse) Iran agrees but is unfaithful, the administration will absorb the full brunt of the backlash. This will guarantee that Key 11 does not turn for the Democrats, and may well even turn Key 10 against the administration as well. Simply put, if Iran gains a nuclear weapon or even gets close to one, both foreign policy Keys turn against the Democrats and a Republican will win in 2016.

[updated] The Iran deal has in fact gone through, though it remains to be seen whether the two sides will honor its terms. In its current form, the agreement is a marriage of convenience. Any revelations of infidelity in the coming year will hurt Secretary Clinton and possibly push the foreign policy keys in favor of Republicans.

Final Prediction: March 2016

Using my final table, I now believe that the Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton will be the next president. Essentially solidifying my last prediction model, Hillary Clinton will hold 8 keys as she enters the White House:

2 Nomination Challenge: Bernie appears to be "berned out"

4 3rd Party Challenge: No major challenge

5 + 6 Economic Keys: The economy is growing slowly but continuously. No recession in sight.

8 Social Unrest: No major or prolonged social unrest outside of the box of American society

9 Scandal: President Obama has not been implicated in any major scandal. Hillary Clinton has issues to be sure, yet none have turned Democrats away from her. The emails have remained a partisan issue.

10 Foreign Policy Defeats: The nation is not primarily blaming President Obama for ISIS's success nor the collapse of Yemen or the civil war in Syria. The American military has not been defeated anywhere, nor is the world in worse shape than it was when George W. Bush was president.

13 Challenger Charisma: Donald Trump has unprecedented unapproval rates (52% of Americans would punch him in the face if they could) and Ted Cruz is as exciting as watching grass grow.

Disagree With My Turning of the Keys? How Would You Turn Them?

Zed on May 15, 2017:

If Lichtman wants to claim his system predicted the popular vote, he can hold that both the contest and third party keys favored Clinton.

It seems to me, however, that the keys stand falsified, because I think Clinton should be seen as having lost the contest key, and thus the Keys predicted Trump would win the popular vote.

Failing to win 2/3 of the delegates over the course of a primary season seems to me a sensible indicator of a tough primary contest, which seems like a plausible bellwether or key, and is supposed to be what the contest key is about. Saying you can fix that by the technicality of changing the tallies at the convention turns the contest key into a laughable "what the tallies were at the convention" key. The electorate doesn't remember or care what numbers they ended up with at the convention; they do remember and care that Clinton was slogging it out with Sanders for months.

NMoshe2567 on December 20, 2016:

It's plainly false to say that the vote was "essentially a tie," especially since the third party key ended up not turning. The keys arguably predicted a Clinton win (though party contest is debatable). One problem with the keys is that there is going to have to be a degree of subjectivity on them, and it's conceivable (and probably has happened) where one or more keys either barely turned or barely did not turn. In some cases one can argue that Lichtman miscalled one or several keys, though the keys lined up in such a way that one or two miscalls would not have changed the overall verdict (where 8 are counted against the incumbents, changing one or two would still predict a loss). Here party contest was clearly a tough call. I also think that based on Lichtman's own criterion, there was a strong case that the Iran Deal secured foreign policy success. It is also possible that an election result occurs that diverges from the keys.

I think the valuable takeaway is that predictions of Replublican dominance and Democratic decline are premature. It's about governance, and 2018 and 2020 will be determined by what Trump and the Republicans do or don't do. The Democrats and the campaigns will have minimal impact.

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on December 20, 2016:


I agree with your first paragraph. Lichtman went so far as to say the popular vote was "essentially a tie" a week after the election. Even besides the growing margin for HRC, the gap between Trump and HRC was larger than the gap between Gore and Bush, which he credited the keys with correctly predicting. He's having it both ways.

As to Sanders, I could see a different result as well, but I'm only assessing what actually transpired. If the result had been reversed, even then, I don't know that I could have turned the contested nomination key for Sanders since 1) he was not the heir apparent, which I think means his nomination would be inherently contested; 2) I partly felt this key turned for Clinton on the strength of her name and brand, which Bernie lacks.

3) I agree about the limitations of the system, though in fairness, he's only claiming a system to predict the winner-not the degree or "mandate" of the victory. With that said, I defer to your first point: the system is supposed to pick the popular vote winner and assume that that will be the electoral winner. Here, he was correct on the result (with a 50/50 chance) but the method didn't support it. Still, few others thought Trump could even win, much less did they expect it to be close. So the system has merit even if not perfect.

NMoshe2567 on December 16, 2016:


My problem after the election is that Professor Lichtman is trying to have it both ways. The keys system states that if eight or more keys are true, then the incumbent party wins the popular vote. The keys do not determine the electoral vote winner. Lichtman made his prediction that Trump would win the popular vote based off of the thought that Johnson would win over 5% of the national vote (which I think was a premature call at the time), and doubled down on that weeks before the election. Hillary Clinton however won the popular vote, Trump won the electoral vote, and Johnson won less than 5% of the national popular vote. Based on this measure, Lichtman called it wrong but his model was correct (assuming that the party contest key did not fall against the Democrats, which has been heavily debated on this forum). However after the election Lichtman has been doubling down that he correctly called Trump's win; he didn't. Unless you want to say that it's possible that the popular vote OR electoral vote winner might diverge from the keys, but he's not arguing that and that would be a new qualifier that he's never stated before.

As to Sanders, I'm not sure I fully agree with the assessment. For contested nomination, I could see an alternative primary outcome where Sanders won Iowa, won Nevada, and did much better in some of the other early primaries, dominated the process much like Clinton did in reality, and while it was close it wasn't really that much in doubt, and the party unifies before the convention. It's impossible to say that for sure, but just as contested nomination wasn't a clear loss for Clinton I don't know if it would have been a clear loss for Sanders. I also think that it's likely that Clinton would have conceded earlier than Sanders did. For third party, again, only if Stein OR Johnson got 5%; however I think a Sanders nomination would have made it more likely that a centrist or center-left candidate like Bloomberg would have run. Assuming that Sanders won the nomination, held only five keys against him, and there was no Bloomberg like third party challenge, then I think that Sanders may have performed better in the rust belt.

And this leads to my third point about the keys system itself. I take a moderate approach to it. I agree that elections are fundamentally a referendum on the party in the White House, and that the keys are an appropriate diagnostic system to gauge outcomes. However, they are limited in 1) determining margin, 2) determining electoral vote count, and 3) possibly there might be room for popular vote-electoral vote divergence when the count is close. I think that campaigns and candidates have some effect in elections, but probably only in terms of margins or degree. Nixon was going to win in 1972 no matter what, but another Democrat y have done much better than McGovern.

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on December 10, 2016:

@RUCB_Alum By my assessment, Sanders would guarantee a loss.

1) Party Mandate; 2) Incumbency; 3) Contested Nomination; 4) National Policy Shift; 5) Foreign Policy Success; 6) Charisma; and, at least by Allan's take, 7) Third Party Challenge.

Even without Stein and Johnson siphoning votes, I see him as losing. Keep in mind, that's not an indictment of Sanders-he's a good man-but the weight of history was against Democrats in this election. Only once since WW2 has a party maintained the WH for 3 terms.

RUCB_Alum on December 10, 2016:

How does Sanders stand on this scale. My assessment is that he wins two of the keys that Hillary lost. Could the ball game have gone his way or would the GOP have just buried him in lies?

Shawn on November 27, 2016:

What Trump tapped into was a strong gender bias towards men. No prior election has ever featured a male vs female dynamic. In that respect, Hilary is not really an incumbent candidate. She is a challenging candidate. Defining incumbency only on party lines, misses the essence of this election. The key which evaluates the charisma of the challenger, should have been used to evaluate her campaign, because there has never been a female candidate for president before, who waschosen by either party. The key used to evaluate the incumbent, should have been used to evaluate Trump. Gender bias as a determiner in this election, cannot be ignored. The keys don't appear to be capable of addressing this aspect.

Mike on November 22, 2016:

@Scottmonster: Lichtman is not being faithful to his own model. His model is based, explicitly, on predicting who would win the popular vote, and Clinton won the popular vote (an outcome a number of us found consistent with Lichtman's model).

One other point: I think the discrepancy between the popular vote and electoral college is a bigger problem than it was in 2000 in terms of the legitimacy of our elections. While I don't think Trump can be perceived as illegitimate given that he prevailed under our system, his legitimacy is still undermined by securing neither a majority nor a plurality of votes. Compared to this election, the country was more evenly divided in 2000 as to who the public wanted to be the next president based on the popular vote. And, unlike this election, it is at least debatable that there was not actually a split between the electoral college and popular vote in 2000 since one could argue that Gore should have won Florida.

Unfortunately, Lichtman's model, which I think is highly persuasive and the most comprehensive of presidential prediction models, does not do a good job of explaining the electoral college/popular vote split in 2016 since it is based on predicting only the popular vote winner, with an emphasis on incumbent party unity, economics, and sensible foreign policy. Given that these factors, on balance, favored the incumbent party (albeit narrowly), my best guess is that, under these conditions, something else took place that Trump tapped into related to the perceived weakening of cultural dominance among some groups of Americans that was without historical precedent in terms of influencing the outcome of an election. But it is just a guess, and I would be interested to know what historians think.

For these reasons, (along with a host of other reasons related to the disposition of Mr. Trump), the outcome of this election is, to date, the most troubling and disturbing of my lifetime.

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on November 19, 2016:

I'd like to thank everyone who has been following and/or posting on this thread for the better part of the last year. It's always been interesting and the comments were frequently insightful.

In the end the difference between my analysis and Alan's was the 3rd party key. Although I still feel like I faithfully interpreted his system and that this key should not have turned against the Democrats, Alan is the expert and I am just a guy who's still learning!

Bruce Carlson on November 19, 2016:

This year is unusual in that Alan Licthman predicted a Trump win widely in the media and the media did and continue to label him the 'professor that predicted Trump's win' More coverage than any since 1984 - hedging with the third party vote - while his system actually predicted a Clinton win, and that is not being covered in the media.

Some debate about Key 13. If it fell, then the keys would really be off because Trump would have been the popular vote winner. I don't think he earned Key 13 though I do see an argument in that he atttracted media attention ala Kennedy, Ike, or Reagan. But he was highly unfavorable. Saw an exit that said 15% of those voting for him didn't like him. Not exactly Ike.

With two electoral college victories in 16 years, and with a more polarized nation, more mobility between states (to the detriment of some states) and better GOTV on both sides, predicting popular vote has lost a little luster. Still the keys along with very close to Election day polls are a good combo.

NMoshe2567 on November 14, 2016:

Even 2016 just ended, I am seriously wondering whether this is a pyrhic victory for the GOP.

1. Party Mandate: Probably will turn, it's hard how the Democrats can be in a worse position than after the 2014 midterms.

2. Party Contest: Unkown, not sure if Trump runs again (might even be removed or resign from office). Either way strong likelihood that there can be a strong intra-party challenge, he has to assuage the alt-right, tea party, and establishment, this will be tough for him.

3. Incumbency: Unknown, Trump may or may not be the nominee.

4. Third Party: Unknown, I would not be surprised if a disaffected faction runs in 2020. It was easier to hold together when trying to take the White House this year, it will be tougher once they are already the incumbent party.

5 & 6. Economy keys, uncertain. Hard to predict in advance. Trump has proposed policies that are quite irresponsible. In the event of a downturn I don't see Trump and a GOP Congress doing much to effectively combat it. These can go either way.

7. Policy change, unknown but more than possible. GOP enjoys unified control so they do have a chance to majorly change entitlements or ACA. On the other hand, it was easier to uniformly oppose Obama's agenda and pass legislation they knew had no chance of being signed into law. It's harder to remain unified as a governing party. Democrats still have the filibuster, McConnell may or may not blow it up for SCOTUS and legislation. Republicans may settle for a less ambitious tax and safety net policy that falls short of securing this key.

8. Social Unrest, this will probably turn against the GOP. Obama was able to successfully handle BLM protests as well as Bundy protests without escalating them. As to BLM, the Obama Justice Department has been able to diffuse tensions when local authorities have failed. I can only see it getting worse under a Trump Justice Department and Department of Homeland Security.

9. Scandal, will most certainly turn against the GOP and may be on its way to turning before Trump actually takes office. This is likely only a matter of time.

10 & 11. Foreign policy keys, probably a split at best for the GOP, but Trump has already made dangerous statements regarding East Asia and NATO. Backing out of the Iran Deal could speed up Iran's acquisition of a bomb.

12 & 13. Charisma keys, also probably a split. Trump might be able to meet the threshold for 2020 but only if he can keep himself under control and "pivot," he has been unable to do this. Democrats don't seem to have anyone at the moment but they are also leaderless, it is difficult to predict. Nobody saw Obama coming in 2004.

Again this is too early, but as pundits are saying that Democrats are dead, the keys are saying that it is uncertain at best for the Republicans and things can quickly turn against them. I don't think there has been a previous situation of four consecutive presidencies serving two terms each. That doesn't mean anything in itself, but the keys tend to predict that upheaval is not an uncommon occurrence in U.S. politics.

NMoshe2567 on November 14, 2016:

@Mike, Lichtman has been consistent that the keys are for predicting the popular vote. There have been historical examples of this before Lichtman started using the system prospectively for the 1984 election, so it is not a situation of having it both ways. The Keys system is a model to determine whether there will be political stability or upheaval on the national level. What the keys can't easily tell you is how this will play out geographically or the margin of victory or defeat. These factors point out shortcomings of the model, but don't repudiate it either. The problem with this election is that there were close calls (party contest, foreign policy success).

Mike on November 13, 2016:

@Paul Rise -- we reached similar conclusions, though I didn't know or see your comments until after I posted mine.

Mike on November 13, 2016:

Lichtman can't have it both ways: On the one hand, state that he predicted a Trump win, but on the other, state that his system is designed only to predict the popular vote winner. Lichtman says in his book, “[b]ecause the Keys to the White House diagnose the national political environment, they correlate with the popular balloting, not with the votes of individual states in the electoral college.” Lichtman, Keys to the White House, p. 2. The popular vote winner in this election was Hillary Clinton, not Donald Trump.

That being said, I do believe the application of Lichtman's system is consistent with Hillary Clinton winning the popular vote. According to this system, the two Keys most in question in this election and for which the outcome of this election would hinge, depending on which way the Key fell (and which really could not be confirmed until we obtained the election results), were 1.) Whether the Incumbent Party Nomination would be considered contested, and 2.) Whether there was a Significant Third Party candidate. The incumbent party needed to retain both Keys to prevail in the popular vote.

With respect to the Incumbent Party Nomination Key, I do not believe, for the reasons stated more fully in my first post from three months ago, that the nomination could be considered contested in light of, for example, President Obama's approval rating among Democrats and Sanders's endorsement of Hillary prior to the Democratic National Convention.

Determining the Significant Third Party Key proved even harder given volatility in the polling throughout the general election campaign. Lichtman finds that a third party candidate would be significant where that candidate “appears likely to win 5 percent or more of the popular vote.”* Id. We now know that none of the third party candidates secured 5 percent of the vote. It appears that the most successful third party candidate in this election was Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, winning around 3 percent of the vote.

Given the popular vote outcome and near unified Democratic opposition to Trump (say approaching 90% and consistent with past elections where a Party is considered unified), the evidence supports a finding that neither of these Keys turned against the Incumbent Party. What, then, to make of Lichtman’s system in light of the discrepancy between the popular vote and electoral college outcomes? Probably most important, this election reinforces that Lichtman’s system is limited to only reliably predicting the popular vote winner. Indeed, this is now the second time in the five most recent elections where application of Lichtman’s system appears consistent with the popular vote winner, but not the electoral college winner. Should perhaps Lichtman incorporate a caveat into his system noting that a split between the popular vote and electoral college is more likely when the incumbent party has been in office for 8 years and 5, but not the magic 6, Keys have turned against the incumbent party? I don’t know. More research may be warranted as to what causes or increases the likelihood of a popular vote/electoral college split. His system may further suggest that a split between the popular vote and electoral college is more likely (though still rare, historically) when there is incomplete and/or conflicting evidence to make a determination about how a Key falls prior to the election. The emergence of these circumstances may mean the outcome will be especially close, increasing the odds of a split, and they are a reminder that application of Lichtman’s system is not purely objective.

*Nor does this Key turn against the incumbent party “when several of the perennial third parties together have garnered more than 5 percent of the vote.” Id. at p. 31.

Paul Rise on November 13, 2016:

Lichtman was correct - he said that Trump would win popular vote if a 3rd party got 5%. No third party did, Hillary won the keys (again, accepting Lichtman's judgement that there was no incumbent party contest) and thus the popular vote.

So his streak continues . . . but perhaps he needs a modifier on it, that if a Clinton or their surrogate (Gore) run with a one-key margin, then they will win the popular vote while losing the electoral college.

Bruce Carlson on November 12, 2016:

Has anyone else noticed that Lichtman is on TV claiming victory when his call for Trump is by all measures an error this year? His system is supposed to predict the popular vote, thus this is a first error? Six keys were not enough.

Or 2000 is an error. That year he claimed he could not predict the electoral vote.

I'm a big fan of the system, even if wrong it renders visible factors no one is talking about. But either way he'd need to pick. One way or the other, the Keys to the Presidency has had its first error.

Shawn on November 11, 2016:

This is interesting, seems credible. But with this key method gaining legitimacy with years of accuracy, the prediction itself is going to factor into future elections. Any party receiving the predicted win could be further emboldened, and therefore less susceptible to last minute developments. So a 14th key is needed for self fulfilling prophecy.

SocialCapitalist on October 22, 2016:

Either Lichtman has used the wrong title for key 13: "Charisma of Challenger" or he's made a wrong judgement on it. One thing about Trump, that is hard to argue against, is the fact he IS charismatic (think of how many headlines he is able to drag every day!). I think Lichtman means 'popularity of challenger' not 'charisma of challenger'.

Lichtman's argument for judging Trump as uncharismatic is "Neither party currently fields a candidate that possesses Ronald Reagan's or FDR's communication skills, nor Eisenhower's or Grant's hero status." His statement may be true, but that's not the definition of charisma.

However if Lichtman has made a wrong judgment, then Key 13 should be 'False', as Trump is charismatic, giving the Republicans the 6 'false' keys required to be predicted winners in the model.

Question to Lichtman, will you consider changing the question of key 13, as the word 'charisma' may not be appropriate for this question. How about asking 'popularity of challenger'?

Paul Rise on October 21, 2016:

Been awhile guys - I am truly convinced that if Johnson pulls more than 5%, along with Steins 1-3%, then the challenger party is going to win the popular vote and likely the presidency.

I don't believe Lichtman that this election is "different." Trump and Clinton are both unpopular - but candidates have won with a minority of the popular vote before. The rhetoric is ugly - when hasn't it been? As a reflection of our culture and our age, are political communications just "normalizing" with the rest of society? The Russians might be manipulating things? You think they weren't in the 1930s, 1950s, 1960s? Not even a little bit?

This age is not that different from before - and I believe the keys will hold.

(I still think the incumbent primary was contested, but will reluctantly defer to the master on this one. I would love to hear Lichtman go into detail about why the incumbent primary did not meet the definition of a contested primary.)

Also - would anyone that's followed this thread and the news be particularly surprised to open up their IPad and learn that the Foreign/Military Failure key had suddenly turned against the incumbent party? In the blink of an eye in Mosul . . . or the skies over Syria . . . or the Spratlys . . . a major European city . . .a major American city . . .

Ken Burgess from Florida on September 26, 2016:

I think the critical KEY for this election happens tonight. If either one of these two candidates 'melts down' in front of what will essentially be the vast majority of voters who tune in... or if one stumbles while the other appears much more Presidential, its all over.

Hillary is expected (according to polls and reports I saw today) to dominate this debate, while there aren't high expectations for Trump (who hasn't been in politics for the past 30 years)... a strong showing by Trump seals the popular vote in his favor IMO.

Bruce Carlson on September 26, 2016:

Licthman called it, and I wouldn't be a person that has been following his excellent system since 1996 if I didn't take that seriously. But he only says 'favorite to win' and headline says 'predicted to win' Two notes.

He's unsure of third party, but he must put 2016 in perspective with 1948. That year the third parties helped Truman, allowing him to appear more moderate given a Dixiecrat and Liberal opponent. It deprived Dewey of relevance.

I feel that the 'Trump Factor' gave him some comfort in making a call (and the news factor of a Trump prediction being man bites dog). Trump's so unusual he points out in the article that his own system may not pick up on it. Well, that's not true. There are two cases to look at:

1960 - he notes in his book he notes that Kennedy's popular vote total didn't reflect the Eisenhower administrations bleeding Key situation - the Catholic candidate might have impacted voters otherwise Key-determined decisions. Yes the Keys were right but it was no blowout.

1868 Even though Andrew Johnson ran with the Union Party ticket he 'awards' him status of opposition party based on his behavior.

Mike on September 25, 2016:

Echoing Paul's observation, Lichtman has not been consistent in terms of whether a significant third party exists in this race:

1.) At his UCLA lecture, he did not find that the election would turn on the significant third party key (he said it would turn on the contest key*). See https://hammer.ucla.edu/programs-events/2016/08/pr... at around minute 32:00.

2.) In a Fox News interview in late August, Lichtman said that the significant third party key would likely turn against the incumbent party if Gary Johnson made the debates and not likely turn against the incumbent party if Gary Johnson did not make the debates (to date, Johnson has not made the debates). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RcOfJvXCf7c at around minute 3:15.

3.) A Brandeis University alumni event attended by Lichtman on September 18, 2016 indicates that Lichtman was undecided on the outcome of the election. See http://alumni.brandeis.edu/clubs-groups/regional-c...

4.) Lichtman relies on Johnson polling at 12 to 14 percent. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/201... However, as NMoshe2567 points out, Johnson has been polling on average under 10 percent. According to the Huffpost average, Johnson has been polling at 8.4 percent. See http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-... Under the Lichtman rule, you would divide that number in half, equaling 4.2 percent, thus failing to meet the Lichtman threshold of 5 percent to constitute a significant third party challenge (on the other hand, Lichtman may be hedging on this rule by assigning a high polling number -- 12 to 14 percent -- such that dividing this number in half gets Johnson to meet his 5 percent threshold).

5.) In the Washington Post interview, Lichtman does not fully commit to turning the significant third party key against the incumbent party. He states: “Remember, six keys and you're out, and right now the Democrats are out -- for sure -- five keys.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/201... He then goes on to state that the incumbent party could well be down the sixth key, significant third party, but that “[a]s people realize that the choice is not Gary Johnson, the only choice is between Trump and Clinton, those Gary Johnson supporters may move away from Johnson and toward Clinton, particularly those millenials.” See Id.

Despite Lichtman’s inconsistencies, I do not think that his current position regarding the significant third party key should be dismissed. In the event that Johnson's polling continues to hold steady, say at close to 10 percent, through the end of October, it will be very difficult to argue that the significant third party key has not turned against the incumbent party. This is true, according to Lichtman, even if the third party challenger takes votes from both major parties, or more from the challenging party than the incumbent party (but still both parties). See George Wallace, 1968 (which Lichtman counted against the incumbent party).

On the other hand, it's possible that this election will set the precedent of a third party candidate exclusively (or predominantly, say 75-25?) splitting the challenging party for the first time, which would not count against the incumbent party according to Lichtman. As Lichtman stated, “I believe that given the unprecedented nature of the Trump candidacy and Trump himself, he could defy all odds and lose even though the verdict of history is in his favor. So this would also suggest, you know, the possibility this election could go either way. Nobody should be complacent, no matter who you're for, you gotta get out and vote.” See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/201...

Overall, I take Lichtman's various positions to reflect that the significant third party key remains fluid, but also a clear warning that if the incumbent party does not resolve the Johnson threat by election day, historic circumstances predict a Trump victory.

*According to his interview with the Washington Post, Lichtman does not appear to turn the contest key against the incumbent party. See https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/201...

Ken Burgess from Florida on September 24, 2016:

Nicely done Paul, I especially like the insight of the last few paragraphs.

I have begun to consider the Hillary Administration as a reality and I have to say anyone with any ability to project what will follow should fear for the future...

Obama is a very popular person, people may not like Obamacare, they may not like anything he has done as President, but they seem to like him... the majority anyway... and he has been able to weather all his missteps and misdeeds because of it.

Hillary is already disliked by the majority, that is fact, the only reason why she could ever win this election is because the Electoral College and Establishment on the whole makes it happen... only a complete collapse by Trump (in some fashion) could actually bring her the popular vote.

And even then, she still would remain unpopular right from the outset of her Presidency... so one has to wonder where things will go from there... how are things going to go as people get even more fed up with Obamacare, with the flow of jobs leaving our country, and anything else that goes wrong?

One is left to wonder just how brutal things will get come 2020... there is no chance she would be re-elected unless she walks us into WWIII... and even then as unpopular as she is with about 70% of Americans that might not be enough.

Paul Rise on September 24, 2016:

Several weeks ago Lichtman wrote a very interesting piece that made me wonder if he was going to call this for the challenger party -


Basically - Hillary is raising money from the .01% and special interests, not campaigning or listening to the people, and this is damaging her.

In his latest piece predicting a challenger party victory, I think Lichtman is saying that his keys indicate a challenger party popular vote win, with the incumbent winning the electoral college or perhaps Congress choosing the president after neither wins a majority in the EC.

I can't find it now, but within the last few weeks I read analysis suggesting that the chance neither candidate might win the electoral college was greater than in past elections.

Regardless I believe large numbers of voters turning out in red states to support Trump, pumping up his popular vote numbers. I would guess Florida, Texas and whatever higher population battleground states he peels off (Ohio seems likely, perhaps Virginia, and let's go ahead and put North Carolina in the GOP win column) will put him ahead in popular votes nationwide. But electorally he still would have a steep road to climb.

Lichtman has been all over the place with his standard for the Third Party. Earlier this summer he said it didn't matter if Johnson got more than 5% - this would hurt Trump, I guess because Trump voters support the open borders and legal heroin that the Libertarian Party offers? That never made sense to me.

My feeling is Millennials are voting for Johnson or Stein, and that Stein's impact is as important as Johnson's in some ways.

For weeks, Johnson has been at a solid 7% - 8% while Stein hovers around 2%. The 2% are liberal voters who are coming out of the Democratic side. Johnson's voters (I think) are largely people who want marijuana legalized and despise Hillary Clinton and Trump.

Lichtman seems to be frantically warning that Trump will win this thing if Hillary doesn't get off her butt and actually do some campaigning and public appearances. (Of course, it's obvious that she has some chronic age- and injury-related illness, but I don't think this will decide the election unless she collapses again.)

So what could Hillary do to eliminate the third party threat?

If Hillary Clinton came out for an end to the federal prohibition on marijuana, she would gain half of Johnson's voters. It would not hurt her current support because that group is not going to vote for Trump. (More risky - should could back away from her embrace of open borders and compete directly with Trump for the immigration security vote.)

This would align with Lichtman's advice for all candidates - ignore party machines and polls and embrace policies that are just, impactful and improve the people's lives, not special interests.

That would put the third party key to rest - but, the incumbents still have to deal with the fact that there was obviously a contested primary election (Sanders received 45% of the vote and delegates, ran the entire length of the primary, and Clinton was booed during her acceptance speech. There also were significant protests during the entire convention.).

And let's be honest - Hillary does not have the courage to take a position like this. She is a terrible campaigner - proved that in 2008. This year, more damaging, she is clearly a pawn of special interests and the super wealthy in a time of history where the majority of voters are completely sick of this regardless of their ideology. She is almost uniquely unsuited to campaign or lead during this time.

Trump is incredibly flawed, but between the two he is more evocative of the people's mood. This doesn't guarantee his win, but shows he is a much more potent candidate than Hillary and I think supports the idea of his popular vote win.

Al74 on September 23, 2016:

@NMoshe2567 and @Scottmonster

If you read what he said on the Washington Post it sound more like he still believes Trump will Lose this election.


So very, very narrowly, the keys point to a Trump victory. But I would say, more to the point, they point to a generic Republican victory, because I believe that given the unprecedented nature of the Trump candidacy and Trump himself, he could defy all odds and lose even though the verdict of history is in his favor. So this would also suggest, you know, the possibility this election could go either way. Nobody should be complacent, no matter who you're for, you gotta get out and vote.

Ken Burgess from Florida on September 23, 2016:

Unfortunately I doubt we will ever truly know. Based on what I have seen in FL, OH and unbelievably even in NY... Trump will win the popular vote overwhelmingly.

Swing states like OH, FL, and PA he will win with wider margins than we have seen in the last five elections, of the popular vote.

But between computers being hacked, and ballots being dumped into the dumpster, and the Electoral College doing whatever it wants to do regardless of the popular vote... I see this being handed to Clinton.

At the end of the day, she is the Establishment's choice, she is the choice of all the string pullers in Washington, and those who have the power have no desire to hand any of it over to "the people's outsider choice".

This is as much about slapping down the dissenters who dare vote for an 'outsider' and putting the middle class in check as it is about their dislike for Trump, and how he has hijacked and exposed their racket.

And this is how such things ALWAYS go, when too much power gets amassed in the controlling government of any country, and the desires of the people get ignored and repressed for too long the dissention and dissatisfaction grows... and all it will take is am economic depression, or another 9/11 event that gets mishandled, and the people will sweep the controlling government (and those that back it) out of power... one way or another.

The way our system is set up, is what has always averted such discord from coming to the point of overthrowing the government... but lets not kid ourselves, we have had Civil War over our disagreements, we have had World Wars when the global economy has tanked, as neither situation seems viable in todays world the alternative would be civil unrest in America like we have not seen in anyone's lifetimes and an overthrow of our current government, and discard of the two party system.

Trust me, if Trump really gets 60%+ of the popular vote, yet is not elected President... no amount of media propaganda, or Washington lies or freebies is going to hold the wave of discontent back for very long...

But if I were a betting man, I would bet that is the scenario we will most likely see occur... and the backlash when something goes very wrong, or just the backlash in four years, will be significant, and dangerous.

NMoshe2567 on September 23, 2016:

That said, it still might be too early to call the third party key. The overall averages are currently projecting that Johnson will get less than 10% of the popular vote, assuming this gets cut in half (Lichtman Rule), then he doesn't clear 5%.

NMoshe2567 on September 23, 2016:

Well it looks like he just called it for Trump based off of the third party key (but he calls the contest key in favor of the Democrats). I just hope that Johnson either tanks by November or the Keys system misfires this cycle.

NMoshe2567 on September 13, 2016:


I see that argument. I will also add that the convention did not have the appearance of a contested convention and the party did not appear fragmented. It's definitely not like 1968, 1976, 0r 1980 when the key did fall. At the same time, Clinton failed to clear the delegate threshold. As paulrise had pointed out, saying that key 2 holds gives the appearance of shifting the goal posts. Overall I'm inclined to think that the keys predict a Democratic victory, but 1) that may be bias on my part, and 2) I'm not confident enough to not worry about the real prospect of a Trump victory.

Al74 on September 12, 2016:


Base on this interview it sounds like he calling key 2 for the Democrats.



Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2016:


This is the question I am most concerned by. I spoke to Allan a few days ago and he didn't commit to his conclusion. I can't/won't speculate about his conclusion.

My own feeling is that the Key will hold for the Democrats because: 1) Bernie's success (with the exception of his home state and Michigan) was concentrated in the Midwest and the notoriously libertarian Pacific North West. The old-populist Midwest will not go for the Dems regardless of the candidate and the PNW will go for HRC regardless of the Republican; 2) HRC won every major state (I'm borrowing from Alan here) as well as the clear majority of African Americans, who are the most loyal large-group of Democrats.

These two factors, I think, hold Key 2 for the Democrats.

NMoshe2567 on September 12, 2016:

Scott, I'm curious as to your take on key 2. Clinton failed to clear the threshold. Lichtman said that it's not clear that it has turned and that revulsion to Trump may have been enough to cause party unity at the convention, but he hasn't made a call either way on this point. What is your thought as to the keys at this moment? I think an argument can be made either way, on one hand the key turns based off of traditional metrics yet at the same time it did not have the appearance of a contested convention.

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on September 12, 2016:


This might seem paradoxical, but I think she is much less healthy than her doctor admitted, yet I don't think it will matter much because: 1) For people who dislike her, she's already done enough that her health shouldn't matter; 2) She's already considered untrustworthy so this is more of the same; 3) She would lose the charisma key anyway

Al74 on September 11, 2016:


Will Hillary's illness have any impact on the Keys?

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on September 11, 2016:

@Ken Burgess

Frustration with Washington is indeed a principal motivation for voters.

Polling shows that this election is unique in the sense that the voters are more likely to vote against a candidate than for one.

Still, I'm not so sure that this election is such a complete outlier. Are Dems really going to abstain from supporting HRC knowing that Trump is the alternative? Will Repubs really sit by while another Clinton gets in the White House?

Time will tell but my money is still on the Keys system.

Ken Burgess from Florida on September 10, 2016:


"As time goes on, and both sides panic about their adversary winning, I expect people to coalesce around the "lesser of two evils" candidate."

That's just it, both sides may panic... but the issue is the other 50, 60% of Americans who do not identify with either side, or either candidate.

Then it comes down to what this election is really all about.

The Establishment, keep Obamacare, 'keep things going as is' voters.


The get rid of Obamacare, anti-Washington, etc. voters.

That really does seem to be the thing being missed here... this isn't a 'typical' or 'normal' election between two parties... with the two candidates just being different shades of grey.

This is Outsider vs poster-child Establishment candidate. And there are millions who will be voting on that issue first, foremost, and even exclusively... with little or no regards to any other issue given.

Al74 on September 07, 2016:


Well it doesn't look like Gary Johnson will make it to the debates and come close in reaching 15%. He would have to average 19% for the next 3 major networks.


Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on September 07, 2016:


1) Great question. Truthfully, I'm not entirely certain. While the Paris Agreement is hugely consequential, I instinctively feel that it is not enough to turn the FP success key. With tremendous "selling" it could meet that threshold, but the administration does not seem to be taking that angle. The Paris Agreement is not on the political radar for better or worse.

2) Gary Johnson is impressive given the difficulty of running as a 3rd party candidate. Not since 1992 (the last year the key turned) has anyone done so well. That being said, I'd be surprised if Johnson managed to reach 15% by the time of the debates. As time goes on, and both sides panic about their adversary winning, I expect people to coalesce around the "lesser of two evils" candidate.

Al74 on September 03, 2016:

@Scottmonster: Would this be consider a Foreign Policies victory with the U.S., China Formally Join Paris Climate Pact? Dr. Lichtman has been telling him to sell a foreign Police victory plus how likely is Gary Johnson chances in getting 15% percent for him to be in the debates that could turn the Key against Hillary Clinton and incumbent party in power?

Scott Vehstedt (author) from Washington, D.C. on August 22, 2016:

@kevin Whether the public has forgotten or never cared about Obama's failures abroad is beyond my control. I mentioned them because I see them as relevant. Secondly, this article was written before the FBI hearings, during which, the FBI stated it would not indict Clinton. Whatever I may be guilty of, bias is something I attempt to account for. Thanks for reading.

Kevin on August 22, 2016:

Iran, Syria, ISIS, Cuba, and Russia seem to be forgotten, because they were all foreign policy failures. Secondly, Clinton lied during those hearings, based on what the FBI Director said during his hearings. Very bias analysis.

Mike on August 21, 2016:

@Paul Rise: I think the answer to your question is both: Democrats were divided over who Johnson's successor should be because they were divided over Johnson. The reason they were divided over Johnson is because of his handling of the Vietnam war.

Two other observations regarding application of Lichtman's keys to this election:

1.) Lichtman does not appear to turn the third party key against the incumbent party. See https://hammer.ucla.edu/programs-events/2016/08/pr... I think this finding is significant given the threat that a third party candidate poses under the current political climate in which the bases of both Parties have proven restless (as reflected in the support for Sanders and Trump) and, thus, potentially receptive to a third party candidate.

2.) In an interview with James Zogby, Lichtman proffered another metric to find that the contest key turned against the incumbent party in this election: that Sanders would need to win "some big states" (such as New Jersey or California, which did not happen). See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b-JBFwTasiI beginning around minute 18.

Paul Rise on August 15, 2016:

@Mike - I thought Lichtman had considered 1968 contested not over the nominee, but over the anti-war vs. pro-war plank in the party platform (and the associated violent rioting at the convention)?

You have captured my frustration with Lichtman's keys in this election. He doesn't seem to have a cut and dried standard for when it turns against the incumbent.

I think he may be whistling in the graveyard, and that the key has turned against the incumbent and Trump likely wins the popular vote (but the Democrats have carved out a firewall to win 270 electoral votes).

Mike on August 14, 2016:

I believe that Lichtman's overall point that the outcome of general elections for president is determined in part by whether the incumbent party is unified behind its nominee is sound. After all, unified parties perform better in elections than do divided parties. However, the metric that Lichtman has used in the past to determine whether the incumbent party is unified by assessing whether that nominee procures approximately a 2/3rd majority at the nominating convention is a poor one to use for contemporary presidential campaigns. First, many primaries and caucuses are now open, thereby allowing non-members of the party to play a significant role in measuring the level of support that the nominee ultimately receives. Second, it is easier for candidates to raise money in non-traditional ways, allowing candidates to stay in the race longer and accrue additional delegates, even when it is clear that candidate lacks any realistic path of overtaking the frontrunner.

Further, this metric is not necessarily consistent with the premise on which Lichtman relies in determining whether an incumbent party nomination is contested. Lichtman has asserted that whether a nomination is contested or not is usually based on whether the incumbent party is satisfied with the performance of the incumbent: nominations are less likely to be considered contested when the incumbent party is satisfied with the incumbent's performance and more likely to be considered contested when the incumbent party is not satisfied with the incumbent’s performance. Thus, the incumbent party nomination was contested in 1968, 1976, and 1980 when significant numbers of members of the incumbent party were dissatisfied with the performance of the incumbent president. By contrast, poll after poll show President Obama receiving close to 90% approval among Democrats. Accordingly, one cannot say that the nomination of President Obama’s successor for the incumbent party is contested based on the premise that the incumbent party is dissatisfied with the performance of the incumbent president. Nevertheless, Senator Sanders received significant support during the primary season despite failing to secure the nomination. His support was aided in no small part from the factors described above, i.e., the open primary and caucus system, coupled with the ability to raise close to unlimited sums of money. The nature of these factors -- which, when effectively leverage, empower insurgent candidacies -- more likely reflect anti-establishment sentiment than they do dissatisfaction with incumbent party performance. When these factors, in turn, materially affect the metric on which Lichtman has relied, they are a weak proxy by which to assess whether the incumbent party nomination was contested.*

Moreover, it is noteworthy that the 2016 Democratic Primary is not the first time that Lichtman undermined the metric on which he has previously relied to assess whether an incumbent party nomination was contested.** For good reason, Lichtman dismissed this metric in finding that the 1968 incumbent party nomination was contested, even though the metric would have indicated otherwise. In 1968, many Democrats were clearly dissatisfied with the performance of the incumbent president, yet because of tragic circumstances (i.e., the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy), this dissatisfaction was not registered at the Democratic Party Convention and Humphrey procured a 2/3rd majority at the Convention on the first ballot. Yet the incumbent Democrats still lost this key because they were not in fact unified behind their nominee heading into the fall election.

For these reasons, the circumstance of whether an incumbent party nomination is truly contested and therefore reflects incumbent party unity during a general election remains important in predicting the outcome of general elections for president, but the metric by which to measure this circumstance requires rethinking.

*Technically, Clinton procured the incumbent party nomination by acclamation, so technically Lichtman can still rely on this metric to find that the incumbent party nomination was not contested.

**This metric was, albeit, dismissed to have the opposite effect than it would have today: to find that the incumbent party nomination was contested rather than not contested.

Paul Rise on August 11, 2016:


Here's a link to some coverage of the Lichtman appearance -


Did you attend the event?

I view Lichtman's comments as a big cop out. It's obvious that the Contest key turned against the incumbent utilizing any metric that Lichtman has previously offered. Therefore, under his system, the challenging party is going to win.

Lichtman can't bring himself to face the reality of his own system. If Hillary wins, it invalidates the Keys. There was no allowance for a candidate using rhetoric that Lichtman finds disagreeable somehow negating the keys system.

I believe the challenging party will receive more popular votes on election day than the incumbent party, because I think there are valid strengths to the keys system. Lichtman should be saying this instead of wishy washing his way to irrelevancy by saying that Trump will lose since his keys system didn't account for someone like him running so successfully.

As "The Great Man" would say - "Sad!"

Ken Burgess from Florida on August 11, 2016:

Like I said in previous posts... keys aren't going to work so well for this election because this is not an easy to read simple one.

As for how things went at the Dem convention... they canned that as much as possible, they were banning Bernie supporters from entry whenever possible, they were filling their seats with paid Hillary supporters, they had the speakers set up to drown out the opposition...

I don't know if they did the same to Cruz supporters in the Rep convention, but the Bernie supporters were putting it out in facebook videos and youtube videos how they were being shut out.

If I did not say this above... let me say it here... what is scary is not if Trump wins, but what happens in four years if he does not... sometimes it is better the devil you know than the alternative that you don't.

When the economy takes a downturn, and gas prices triple, and the angry voters who are now coming out in numbers for Trump come back in an even bigger wave in four years... who will be their Shepard then?

See the problem that the media and Democrat Party has caused us... is that by equating Bush to Hitler, and Romney to Hitler and Trump to Hitler... is that when next arises a Hitler, no one is going to pay any attention to the media or the opposition, because its been done so many times before.

The boy who cried wolf... that is what I fear is ahead four years from now.

NMoshe2567 on August 10, 2016:

Last night in the Hammer Museum at UCLA (available from KPCC), Professor Lichtman spoke about the election and his take on the keys. As of now he's still not making a prediction. He stated that he originally thought the party contest key turned against the Democrats but is now doubtful about that. Basically the shared disgust and dislike against Trump that Sanders and Clinton supporters share could nullify the effect of the primary race.

There might be some evidence to support this from the convention itself. While day one started off rowdy, there was much more party unity by the end of that evening. It did not feel like it was a contested convention. Lichtman also said that this election is very unusual because there is a really strong chance that the result might be determined by the opposition party candidate. This is unusual because the keys system is prefaced on the presumption that elections are about the party in power, not the opposition party.

Ken Burgess from Florida on July 26, 2016:

I doubt she will get 90%... I could see 10% of those voters going to Trump, as much as 60% not voting at all for either. The majority are young, and if they don't support Hillary or want her as President they are not going to vote for her merely because she is not Trump.

Of course, there are die-hard fringe Republicans that hold Party above all else, including the good of the country, who will not be voting for Trump.

There is a major block of voters that are voting first and foremost on one thing... the Outsider/anti-Washington vote be they Sanders or Trump or someone else... and they won't be voting for Hillary no matter what.

Paul Rise on July 26, 2016:

Supporters of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders will get to vote for him in a roll call vote on the convention floor Tuesday. . ."Let me thank the 13 million Americans who voted for the political revolution, giving us the 1,846 pledged delegates here tonight – 46% of the total."


I did not realize that Sanders actually pulled 46% of the vote. Not releasing your delegates and calling for a floor vote - which Sanders did from the beginning of his "endorsement" of Hillary - seems like a tacit way to encourage supporters to try to get superdelegates to change their vote. This won't happen of course - but I think this puts paid to the notion that somehow the incumbent party has kept the Contest key in their favor.

Remember - the measure of a third of delegates supporting a candidate other than the nominee doesn't evaporate because of a candidate endorses someone a few weeks before the convention. It's a way of measuring the discontent and lack of unity across the party nationwide.

Sanders got 46% of the delegates - this is a tremendous number historically. The millions of voters who chose him aren't all going to support Clinton. Perhaps 90% will, as I heard repeated yesterday many times. But that still 10% aren't - and in a close electoral state, that relatively small number staying home, or writing in Sanders or voting Green - or even voting Trump as I believe a very small percent of that 10% will - could be more than enough to throw the popular vote to the challenger.

All this said - this appears to be the latest public comment from Allan Lichtman on the election -

"I think the party has been divided, but Bernie Sanders' endorsement should go a long way to unifying the party," says American University political historian Allan Lichtman.

I'm curious when he said that - the quote has appeared in several places, so I'm wondering if he said it at a recently promoted American University media event, I believe about 2 weeks ago.

I'm guessing we will see an official prediction from Lichtman in early August.

Paul Rise on July 23, 2016:

Three things to consider as we enter next week's Democratic convention and this board I think, generally undecided about whether the Contest key has turned against the incumbent party.

1) Initial reaction to Kaine's pick as VP seems muted, with the initial reaction seeming to be that it won't attract Sanders most die-hard supporters to vote Hillary.

2) An extremely embarrassing and destabilizing release yesterday concerning Wikileaks emails that seem to confirm Sanders supporters' worst fears about Clinton team's conduct during the primaries - http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/wikileaks-emai...

3) Delegates seem to be gearing up for a fight over the role of superdelegates in future contests - http://www.bradenton.com/news/politics-government/...

Remains to be seen the impact of these - I still lean towards the interpretation that the contest key has clearly turned against the incumbent party (Sanders received 40% of delegates and votes; these will be counted at the convention; he still has not "officially" ended his campaign.)

Apocryphally, I am seeing a lots of Sanders supporters saying they won't vote for Hillary in November.

Ken Burgess from Florida on July 16, 2016:

@Paul Rise ... indeed, the past two weeks have dramatically altered the course of this race. From the Orlando massacre to the Dallas assassinations to the massacre in France, one on top of another on top of another, it is becoming almost a daily scenario... and each time Oboma gets out their and minimalizes or shifts blame onto the victims.

Hillary stands rigidly as the defender of progressivism (this is what progressivism, lack of prosecution of terrorists, and wide open borders gets you and people are waking up to that fact) of wanting to fly in hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees (at taxpayer expense) so that we too can enjoy the wonderful events first hand going on in France fairly regularly.

Americans are beginning to realize we are at war, and the current administration if not an ally of those who are warring against us, is suspect in its lack of condemnation of those forces and making any effort to rigorously route out the roots of this enemy both here and abroad.

Hillary/Obama will continue to protect the very forces destroying our nation and killing innocents. While the other has promised to fight them even if a minority of people's 'rights' suffer to make us all safe.

We will see how willing the American people are to risking their lives and culture for the 'utopian' progressive perspective being pushed by the Democrats.

Al74 on July 15, 2016:

NMoshe2567 Bernie already endorse Clinton this past week.

Paul Rise on July 15, 2016:

Gee - in 24 hours so much more to consider. Likely terror attack in Nice will heighten fear of terror in US. Turkey coup contributes to overall shakiness of the whole Mediterranean. Possible widespread BLM/Day of Rage events tonight across US. More than ever I think Unrest and Foreign Policy/Military Failure in play - but not turned yet. I think?

NMoshe2567 on July 15, 2016:

I think it's premature to say either way. I'll admit that the argument that it's already turned is quite strong. OTOH, as recent as the beginning of the month before the endorsement Dr. Lichtman wrote an argument indicating that it hasn't yet turned but will if Sanders doesn't endorse Clinton. I reserve judgment until after the convention.

Then there's also the possibility that: 1) another key definitively turns (either for or against the administration), 2) Clinton wins the electoral vote even with the keys against her, or 3) Clinton wins both the popular and electoral vote despite the keys being against her. As useful as the keys are, and as under noticed I think they are, models work until they don't. It's not an immutable law of physics. Then again, I am getting quite nervous. The only thing I can say about a Trump presidency is that he'll probably mismanage so badly that he loses badly in 2020 and takes the GOP Congress with him in 2018.

Al74 on July 14, 2016:

Read this article: Bernie won't have a floor fight at the convention.


Paul Rise on July 14, 2016:

I've thrown this out a few times, and I think it's worthy of consideration, although I'm not sure what I think. In terms of unrest, I think the year to look at is 1920, not 1968. I would be surprised to see the all out chaos of rioting we saw in 1968, what interests me is the low level fear that most middle and upper class people I come into contact with seem to have about terrorist acts or acts of civic insurrection like Black Lives Matters protests. Note how badly Hillary has suffered in the polls since the Dallas attacks. Also note the terrible results of right track/wrong track polls. Again, not saying Unrest has turned against the incumbents, just that the key seems wobbly to me for the same basic reasons that it fell in 1920 - mass killings backed up with fear of "the other."

And worth pointing out that I am firmly in the "Contest key has fallen" camp given the lukewarm endorsement by Sanders and the apparent looming fight over superdelegates. I just don't think Clinton consolidated the party around herself like she needed to do.

Also, on a personal note - I never had any use for Clinton but I find her more palatable and endearing over the last few weeks, and I just can't wrap my head around the idea of President Trump and I certainly can't believe he would be anything but an embarrassing failure. Immaterial in terms of key analysis but I just didn't want folks thinking I was a Trumper. I do think it's his race to lose, unfortunately. We will see!

NMoshe2567 on July 14, 2016:

@Bruce Carlson,I think many keys are very borderline. My impression of key 2 is that it's supposed to measure lack of party unity and a lack of clear succession/leadership. The measuring stick used to be whether the nominee wins on the first ballot (back when 2/3 of delegates were needed). Now it's measured by 2/3. I also believe that whether there's a floor fight or an actual challenge at the convention itself is determinative. McCain only had the requisite number of delegates because everyone else dropped out before then. I don't think Kennedy actually had 1/3 of the delegates in 1980, but he did take it all the way to the convention and attempted to win through super delegates. I think this is what turned it (granted the keys would have predicted a Carter loss anyways, so it's hard to tell for sure).

Sanders ran a stronger campaign than expected, but it was never really that close, and there was never any strong doubt that Clinton would get the nomination. Further, Sanders has not dropped out or released his delegates as of yet, but he's not really trying to win the nomination either. At this point he's using his delegate as an ego booster (then again, it could also signal a significant dissent to the establishment wing of the Party, and therefore might show a lack of unity/clear leadership).

Personally I think key 2 could go either way, and really depends on what happens at the convention. If it's ugly, then it may be that key 2 falls, if it's not an ugly convention then one may argue that it remains in favor of the Democrats.

Third party is also iffy. I don't think Jill Stein is going anywhere, but she may pull a Nader in key swing states (I think he polled over 5% in FL). Gary Johnson is interesting. I think his support will fade, but if it doesn't it may be hard to call this key. On one hand he and Weld are Republicans who draw support largely from moderate/traditionally business conservative Republicans. If, however, he draws significant support from voters dissatisfied with both parties, then this key falls.

I still wouldn't call key 8 against the Democrats. This isn't 1968. It's not even the protests/unrest of the early 90's (which Lichtman did not call against the Republicans in 1992). I would put one big qualifier though, "yet." It's still possible that this may turn if things further escalate.

Scott and Dr. Lichtman both hold that key 11 is against the Democrats. I personally disagree and I do think that the Iran deal counts, but I see the arguments otherwise as well. I think that in any event it's probably a close call. Basically, if key 2 does indeed fall and Trump wins the popular vote my reaction will probably be that I called 11 wrong.

Bruce Carlson. on July 13, 2016:

Dangerous year for the incumbent party. All I know for certain. No cakewalk.

I for one was parsing Bernies words "endorse, release". only to think. What the heck am I doing? This can't be the way.

He got 1/3rd more really that could be Key 2 and they will do a roll call.

I do wonder though... Is 2016 a YUGE contest aka 1976 1980 1912 1968. I think social media caucus rules and open primaries may make a contest easier. Most long time Democrats support Hillary. Different from Reagan challenge of Ford or TRs bitter one w Taft. No true split in party.

So I throw that out there. But I do not know. Overall dangerous for incumbent. 3 p is also dangerous.

One thought. Lictmans system is the best but based on regular elections. This may not fit w the 1864-2012. Hey I am a guy that sat there w a smile in 2000 looking at the TV. Hah I know. I ran the keys... When florida. shockingly came in for Gore. I said wow those Keys. But there was a historic factor that year not present since 1888.

Paul Rise on July 12, 2016:

@Al74 Yes, that's the Vox article that notes that 1900 delegates Bernie Sanders won, far in excess of the 1/3, will be counted at the convention. Lichtmans own discussion of the keys this season indicates that is the trigger for turning it against the incumbent party. Again - I'm interested to see the next update Lichtman offers.

Al74 on July 12, 2016:

From Vox: Bernie Sanders just endorsed Hillary Clinton, effectively bringing his campaign to an end.


Paul Rise on July 12, 2016:

From Vox : "Now, Sanders didn’t announce that he was suspending or ending his own campaign. He said that the delegates’ roll call at the convention in a little over two weeks would reflect that he had won almost 1,900 delegates — suggesting that he might technically stay in the race till then."

Sanders "won" more than 1/3 of the delegates and it sounds like the official roll call will reflect that.

I think Contest clearly has turned against the incumbent party but I'm curious to see if Allan Lichtman weighs in on this.

Al74 on July 12, 2016:

It's official Bernie Sanders has endorse Hillary Clinton and won't contest the Primary. http://www.nbcnews.com/politics/2016-election/bern...

Paul Rise on July 09, 2016:

Bizarre his assumed endorsement comes as the Unrest key seems ready to topple against the incumbent party. I still think too little, too late, but I am interested to see if we get an update from Allan Lichtman next week. If Sanders saves the nation from a Trump presidency, then he really is the most consequential figure of this campaign.

Ted Kennedy in 1980 received less of the Democratic vote % than Sanders, but of course carried his campaign into the convention hall, where an ugly debate ensued. If the convention fight is the trigger for the key, then Lichtman has done a poor job over the last decade articulating this measure. I have seen interviews with him where he says its merely 40% of the delegates, I feel like in the last year, and also when he argued that the number of people supporting a challenger within the incumbent primary indicated dissatisfaction and lack of unity.

There is no parallel in recent memory of a incumbent party dealing with a Contest challenge like Clinton has had to deal with. It will be very interesting to see if the keys hold for this election.

If Sanders endorses, I wonder if the deal was the Vice Presidency - a prediction Larry David's Bernie Sanders made on SNL this season. I think he would be a popular choice and a real gesture of goodwill to the millennial voters who will make or break the Democratic Party over the next generation.

Al74 on July 09, 2016:

Sander is posed to endorse Hillary Clinton on Tuesday.


Paul Rise on July 08, 2016:

Unrest obviously in play after 7/7 Dallas ambush.

Creeping around the edges - increasing criticism of Obama DOJ for handling of Hillary email scandal. Scandal still safe I think - for now.

Still no indication that Sanders drops out - not that this would change much after 40% of primary voters/delegates already have made decision to support him.

Brace for a challenger party popular vote win.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 30, 2016:

Paul... don't underestimate the debates... they will be huge, if either of the two dominates the other, they win... if either of them looks like a total idiot, or complete liar, the other will win. The first debate will be the most watched debate in U.S. history, bet on it... will be one of the most watched events of the year, other than the Super Bowl.

Al74 on June 30, 2016:

Paul Rise: He if he didn't endorse Hillary and contested he wouldn't get to speak at the convention.


Paul Rise on June 30, 2016:

The latest from Allan Lichtman - "Sanders is only helping Trump by staying in the race" - "By refusing to endorse Hillary Clinton for president and threatening to take his campaign to the convention, Sanders is creating a condition that has almost always spelled defeat for the party holding the White House (currently the Democrats, of course). To find the last time that the incumbent White House party survived such a contest, it is necessary to go back to the 19th century, when James Garfield in 1880 won the presidency with an eyelash plurality of just one-tenth of 1 percent in the popular vote. If the party holding the White House cannot unite in defense of its incumbency, that sends a negative signal to voters, as well — not just Sanders's supporters, but all voters."


Al74 on June 29, 2016:

Paul: Bernie has acknowledge that Hillary Clinton won and he's focus on a Progressive Plate form to be at the Convention. http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/06/23/Sanders-F...

Al74 on June 29, 2016:

Here's what Dr. Lichtman said last month on the Washington Post in regards of the 3rd Party within the Republican Party,

" That means this election will be decided by the two keys hanging fire: The contest key, No. 2, and the foreign policy success key, No. 11. It will not be decided by the debates, the speeches, the ads, the tricks of the campaign.

And finally, there is also this kind of wild-card factor of, will the Republican Party split? And will there be a Republican candidate who is an alternative to Donald Trump?


Gary Johnson is a former Republican Government who will take votes from both Trump and Clinton but base on what Lichtman comments it suggest that Johnson will hurt Trump more than Clinton.

Paul Rise on June 29, 2016:

Seems more evident that the whole election hinges on the Contest key (which I feel has already fallen against the incumbent party).

With this week's developments in the Clinton email server (especially the Chris Cilizza WP editorial about how her explanation for the server is now untenable and unbelievable) it's apparent that this is a scandal - but not for the incumbent party. Obama is scandal-free.

However, the email situation is impacting the Contest key. Sanders would be foolish to drop out - there is a not-negligible chance Clinton drops out before the convention. There is a not-negligible chance she is indicted before the election. There is a not-negligible chance that even an elected Hillary might face indictment or impeachment as president.

Given this - why would Sanders drop out? He might as well wait it out and see if these things come to pass, or maneuver to be her VP.

He has nothing to lose. After taking in 40% + of the democratic primary vote, after taking 40% of the delegates (greater than the 1/3 he needed to turn the key against incumbent), after refusing to endorse Clinton or drop out - he is going to the convention, likely simply because he is wondering like more and more in the Beltway that the email server scandal is the latest election year topic that the pundits and media were wrong about.

What remains to be seen is if Trump is a wild card factor that upends the key analysis as a whole. My gut feeling is he will win the popular vote in November as the keys forecast.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 28, 2016:

NeverTrump - First, when has Obama ever let the law stop him?

He passes an Executive Order and does what he wants.

Second, the bill has already been passed, it was part of a 1.1 Trillion dollar spending spree in which the President got authorization for 100,000 refugees to be brought in only 12 months time, the bulk of the rest goes to Defense spending... one hand washed the other.

Lastly this isn't about Obama... this is about the coming election, and what effects it. And to some degree all these issues, from companies leaving to Mexico to Syrians being flown in, impact people, motivate them to vote, or not... it all adds up.

NeverTrump on June 27, 2016:

Burgess -- FactCheck-dot-Org documents that "Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina repeatedly have claimed that the Obama administration plans to accept anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 Syrian refugees. That’s false. By law, the administration can admit slightly more than 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, and no refugee commitments can be made beyond that." So, we will NOT be shipping in 'tens of thousands of Syrian refugees'. More than any election in memory, this election is ridiculously devoid of truth.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 25, 2016:

90% of the people who are going to vote have made up their minds... what will impact the final outcome is what happens in the days/weeks before the election... is the economy tanking... is there another Orlando terrorist attack... issues like Obamacare, and how awful it is, and how costly it is... veterans dying in the streets from lack of care while we ship in tens of thousands of Syrian 'refugees' and give them fullblown welfare/housing etc.... these issues are already in play and having a major influence on many 'average' middle-road Americans... but those two issues (economy/terrorism) will influence most in those final days.

Al74 on June 24, 2016:

But he also said that he doesn't have the vote to win the nomination. He says he right now focusing on changing the Democratic Platform for the convention.


Paul Rise on June 24, 2016:

He didn't endorse her or give any indication that he wasn't going to go to the convention.

"On CNN later, Sanders was even more noncommittal on Clinton, saying, "in all likelihood" his vote "will be Hillary Clinton." He was pressed on that choice of words. Sanders said he didn't want to "parse" words but then went on to rattle off issues he believed in that the party should adopt."


Al74 on June 24, 2016:

Bernie Sanders says "yes," he will vote for Hillary Clinton in November

Paul Rise on June 24, 2016:

Brexit is a potential game changer. I don't think you could reasonably say its a foreign policy failure for the incumbent, but it certainly raises the possibility there could be a recession before the election.

So, my opinion, no keys turn but short term economy (5) is definitely added to keys 2, 10 and 11 as ones who could move. (I still think contest has pretty obviously turned against the incumbent but I recognize most here don't.)

Al74 on June 23, 2016:

So now that the U.K. has exist the E.U. will it have an impact on the U.S. election?

Paul Rise on June 17, 2016:

Sanders latest public comments give no indication he is dropping out or endorsing Hillary. I think he will go to the convention.

Al74 on June 15, 2016:

Perhaps then the Democratic Party in several states like New Hampshire and many states that have open primary may have given the Whites House to Trump and that state DNC Parties need to have more close Primaries than Open Ones Example: When Sanders won the West Virginia Primary it was revealed that some of the Trump supporters were allowed to vote since it was an open Primary it hopes to prolong the Democratic Primary. 40% of those who voted for Sanders said they would vote for Trump against Sanders in the election. Number 2 will be debated plus what will also be dabatable is Gary Johnson in which several polls having him polling between 10%-15% and it's expected that he's pulling a lot of Republicans he could also pull some Sanders but I expect them to go to Jill Stein of the Green Party. We shall see.

Bruce Carlson on June 15, 2016:

A few thoughts here. I do believe Lichtman in his book does say 'at the first ballot of the nomination convention.' On the other hand, in 1968 (due to the death of RFK) he ignores the convention and the key falls, even though Humphrey got 2/3rds. I can't get away from thinking the primary is so different from when AL developed the keys - open primaries with voters who don't care to pledge to the party, proporitional delegates, the timing of races, etc. But I suppose we'll debate Key 2 for a while.

1920 (really the lead up starting in 1919) was an incredibly violent year of racial beatings and lynchings, labor strikes and strike breaking, and anarchist bombings not only of Wall Street but targeting US officials and reaching the Attorney General's house. His counter raids also added to the unrest. It was also post-war and after a large influenza epidemic that killed thousands, not to mention a recession with economic and unrest effects.

NMoshe2567 on June 14, 2016:

John McCain won 1575 of the delegates in the 2008 primaries, this was short of 2/3. Furthermore, Clinton's clinching of the nomination was never seriously in doubt, even if it was slightly closer than it was originally projected to be. Compared to 1976 or even 1980, this isn't particularly close or contested. This could change if Sanders actually takes it to the convention. Professor Lichtman makes it clear that what matters is the delegate count at the convention.

As to the shootings: first, it's not even clear whether the shooter over the weekend had any actual affiliation with extremist groups. Second, there is no sustained wave of extremist shootings or unrest. It takes more than a few isolated incidents to turn the unrest key.

Paul Rise on June 14, 2016:

@NMOSHE2567 McCain won 37 contests among a field of 4 serious candidates. I believe he went in to the convention with more than 70% of delegates. I also recall him sealing the nomination on Super Tuesday.

Hillary Clinton only last week clinched the nomination. I believe it is 60/40 on votes and delegates. There is no indication that he will throw in the towel before the convention. I think it's clear the key has turned against the incumbent.

Theres no evidence that the Scandal key will turn.

Also, the bombings and conspiracy of bombings in 1919 and 1920 were part of the red scare. The situation is worthy of study and comparison to our current situation with Islamist terrorist shootings.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 14, 2016:

Again, it seems some of this is debatable, and not as clear cut factual as you may believe... when you say the scandal key only falls if something raises serious questions of the President's integrity.

Well, we live in a different world today than at any other time, even while it seems the media is doing everything to protect the President and sell his stamped-with-approval version of events, the internet and twitter, etc. have made how people get their news and information a vastly different world... no longer do the news papers or tv stations hold sway over what the population learns or thinks.

I would counter that the MAJORITY of Americans long ago began raising questions about the President's integrity, and loyalties, for that matter. I would say events like trying to blame riots across the Middle East and Benghazi on a YouTube video went a long way to checking that box... so have countless other lies and deceits that have emanated from the WH that the media tried to sell us.

Hillary could win, but the country is divided like no time during my lifetime (nearly 50 years) really, we have a couple generations of Americans that have never really seen strife and conflict in this streets of this country, let alone a World War type crisis... unfortunately I believe that is about to change, especially if we continue on course as we have the past 25 years with politics in Washington selling out America's best interests, and weak leadership.

Zed on June 14, 2016:

Lichtman did not hold the contest key in favor of the Republicans in 2008.

(See his article http://blogs.britannica.com/2007/10/the-13-keys-to...

So much for the "fix key 2 at the convention" theory.

Stick a fork in Hillary--Bernie's cooked her.

NMoshe2567 on June 14, 2016:

Actually Professor Lichtman has made it consistently clear that key 2 falls when the nominee fails to secure 2/3 of the delegates at the convention. The fact that Sanders has won around 40% of the delegates in the primaries would not mean that the key turns if Clinton is able to clear the threshold on the convention floor. Case in point, McCain did not receive 2/3 of the GOP delegates in the 2008 primaries, but by the time of the convention the other candidates had thrown their delegates to him and he won 99% at the convention. Professor Lichtman held that key in favor of the Republicans. If Sanders takes it to the convention or refuses to release his delegates beforehand then yes, the key falls, but it otherwise remains in favor of the Democrats.

The social unrest key of the 1920's fell because of the first Red Scare. What happened on Sunday does not qualify as sustained social unrest. The closest you can argue has been the BLM protests, but that is also a stretch.

Professor Lichtman has been clear that the scandal key only falls if it either goes directly to the President, or if it raises serious questions of the President's integrity. Even if the emails were anything other than a fake scandal being drummed up for partisan gain, it still does not go directly to the President. The key holds.

Al74 on June 14, 2016:

This is what Dr.Lichtman said last week, " “By continuing the struggle, even above and beyond the point at which he is mathematically eliminated, Sanders is accomplishing one thing and one thing only: the election of Donald Trump. So Sanders is on a suicide mission. He can’t win, he can’t become the nominee, but he can elect Donald Trump, a candidate who he believes is just the opposite of everything he stands for The 74-year-old, who it’s been estimated has more supporters under the age of 30 than Clinton and Trump combined has urged media outlets not to call the outcome just yet. He has vowed, “the Democratic National Convention will be a contested convention.”

If Sanders decides to take it to the convention then he gives Donald Trump the Presidency.

Paul Rise on June 14, 2016:

@Ken Burgess - I think you capture the meaning of the CONTEST key. The fact that Sanders voters turned out in such numbers indicates a lack of unity within the incumbent party. This lack of unity is strongly correlated with incumbent party loss.

People interested in parallels between 1920 election and 2016 can Google "1920 wall Street bombing." Interestingly these bombings, widely believed to be connected to Italian anarchists, set off debates about immigration policies. To me the parallels are compelling. The possibility of another domestic mass shooting committed by an Islamist seems likely.

I also find it hard to envision that a foreign/military success that could occur, but it seems easier to believe a foreign/military failure could occur -

A failure coupled with a success seems more likely - IE a foreign power or terrorist group successfully attacks a core US interest (failure) followed by a quick and overwhelming response (success). However this would still not help the incumbent party hold on to the white house in my opinion.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 14, 2016:

That is semantics Al74... someone handing over their delegates, if he does, when he holds over 40% of those that were voted, isn't the point... the point is, Hillary barely achieved more than 50% of the votes, of her own party. That means the other half doesn't really like her, and would prefer a 70 year old socialist.

The point was that she didn't get, through her own efforts and popularity, the two thirds she needed to check that box in her favor.

Al74 on June 13, 2016:

Once Bernie drops out of the race after Tuesday's Primary then his delegates will transfer to Hillary Clinton giving her over 2/3 of the delegate before the nomination.

Paul Rise on June 13, 2016:

Lichtman has been pretty clear about what the incumbent party needs to do to keep the CONTEST key - the nominee needs to get 2/3 of the primary vote delegates. Hillary Clinton did not do this. CONTEST has turned against the incumbent party.

There is another key in play. UNREST - the violent terror attacks in San Bernadino and Orlando are comparable to the anarchist bombings of I believe 1920. 1968 is often referenced as an example but I think 1920 would be the year to examine. I'm not ready to say this turns but its close. I think the public trust is truly shaken by these events and another Islamist attack will flip UNREST against the incumbent.

3rd Party is another one to keep an eye on. However there doesn't seem to be a traditional conservative to thwart Trumore. It will be interesting to see what the libertarians do, but I don't think their open border message will attract trump voters. Their marijuana legalization position could attract Sanders voters however.

It is probably too soon to say in this chaotic and bizarre election but it looks bad for the incumbent party.

Zed on June 13, 2016:

I seriously doubt that you can win the contest key by having your primary opponent give you delegates you've already lost.

Barring the unlikely event that Obama (who doesn't seem to believe in the keys and who exudes complacency about the election) pulls off some foreign policy miracle before November, the keys appear to say Brace Yourselves for President Trump.

Ken Burgess from Florida on June 13, 2016:

It's tough to judge since I wasn't alive during elections when we had such turmoil and transition in our Nation... you have to go back to 64/68 elections to find a comparable.

This election has more clear cut differences between the two candidates than any election in the past 50+ years. Its not like they are just slightly different shades of grey.

This election has more at stake than any election in the last 50 years, with the almost certainty that multiple Supreme Court Judges will be replaced. With an economy that has been stimulated by doubling the national debt (21 Trillion by Obama's end) and cannot continue on course as it has.

Al74 on June 13, 2016:

Once Bernie Drops out of the Race after Tuesday's Primary he will releases 2/3 of his delegates and endorses Hillary Clinton should will be able to hold 8 keys.

Bruce Carlson on June 13, 2016:

Here's one thing people who follow the Key system know more than most political commentators. The election is close and Democrats are on the cusp of losing despite 2 large wins in the last elections. They made several mistakes from a Key standpoint that they didn't prioritize, because...well, politicians and campaigners don't like academic systems and they wouldn't have seemed crazy using Conventional Wisdom.

For instance, from a Conventional Wisdom standpoint, not pushing a policy change is good politics - don't use political capital, etc. From a key standpoint it's deadly. Obama failed to do anything significant in his second term, including the brief period of 2013-14 where his party held the Senate. Immigration reform for example would have been a great issue with enough bipartisan support. Not pushed.

Contest key - Obama used Conventional Wisdom in not picking a favorite early in the race. Be kind, let the primaries play out. It's possible he may have even personally not favored either and wanted to pick the strongest. From a Key standpoint, this is deadly. It's now possible Democrats lose Key 2. So pick Sanders or Clinton but pick early and invite one to the White House. Then send Biden out to campaign with them. This is crazy for those who don't know the Keys.

That being said, at least two maybe three keys are in play:

CONTEST KEY remains to be seen. It's possible Lichtman calls this one against Democrats, it really is. Lichtman already commented in April that Democrats were in danger of losing Key 2. He mentioned the 2/3rds requirement. Sanders beat that - he has about 40% of delegates and 42% of votes. More than that, it's been a noticeably contentious primary towards the end. Stronger than Bradley/Gore, stronger than Romney/McCain, stronger than the 19% Bob Dole earned against GW Bush in 1988. The only reason I keep Contest open for myself is this - involvement in primaries is way up. I wonder if proportional delegates, caucus-based decisions and open primaries have changed it a bit to make it easier to challenge than it used to be when we were talking more conventional primaries and only a small group of involved politicos, skewing this key. Did Clinton actually win 2/3rds of the "Democrats' as would be represented in any other year but lost new independents. Do we then go to a more broad interpretation of what a CONTEST is - and then say is this like 1976, 1968 or 1912. Is it the PERCEPTION of a contest. And with Air Force One landing, and Bernie probably down as a prime-time speaker and Clinton backer, can this key really fall?

I don't know.

THIRD PARTY - remember that the only reason for the existence of the third party key is to make 1912 work. So think about it in those historical terms. A major third party challenge of that nature. 1912 was an election where Taft should have won but because of politics he lost, so the 3rd party key is a way of sort of double-counting a contest key if the politics are really bad. It will be interesting to see in this election. Jill Stein is attracting no support, Sanders should join the fold and there is no obvious third party candidate. (signatures due in major states this month.) The only one that can fell this key then is the Libertarians. I'd contend that this represents almost a splinter-movement against the GOP nominee given that the ticket represents two GOP governors, but we should keep an eye out. Johnson is known to attract some liberals as well.

OTHERS. I'd look out for FOREIGN POLICY SUCCESS. It has to be major. This is not won right now. SCANDAL, again has to be major. I agree with the person above who said that it applies to Hillary as well as Obama. This is correct. Hillary was part of the incumbent administration. Lichtman per April interview didn't feel that it fell. What could change that?, an actual indictment I suppose or some other scandal. I thought there wasn't enough discussion of Trump as CHARISMATIC in that he moved the media at his whim for a while there. But he's peaked I think in this regard and will fight the general as an aggressive but traditional candidate against Hillary Clinton.

That's where I see them right now. Gosh, I've been writing in posts like this about keys for 17 years now.

Al74 on June 09, 2016:

President Obama's endorsement of Hillary Clinton put the nail in the coffin for Bernie's campaign.

Al74 on June 06, 2016:

Hillary Clinton will be the Presumptive Nominee and it's reporting that President Obama will endorse Hillary Clinton and the Sanders will concede.

Paul Rise on June 06, 2016:

Its clear Sanders is staying in and there will be a contested convention. This wouldn't be a big deal if he only had a tenth of the delegates, but he has well over 1/3. This is the threshold Lichtman uses to measure the CONTEST key. The incumbent party has lost 6 keys - unless the current administration can pull off some sort of foreign policy victory, or convince the public that one of the recent minor foreign policy accomplishments is significant, the democrats will likely lose the popular vote in November.

However, this begs the question - could Hillary somehow pull together an electoral win despite losing the popular vote? I think this is possible.

Bruce Carlson on June 04, 2016:

The keys don't have any logic to them, so the results may not sense. Also it's assumed they are causative, which they must be in some form (bad economy = don't like incumbent). If a set of conditions exist, it tends to indicate disfavor or favor. So there might be some illogical things.

One of the hardest for Key fans to explain for instance, is one of the most important here - 3rd Party. Many incumbents think a third party will split the vote, but the Key system doesn't show that to be the case.

Lichtman's key has an exception (not one he 'created' but one that made the historical key programming work) that a third party can't be a splinter of one side, must appeal to all americans. The GOP splintering in two doesn't hurt incumbent Democrats. All can judge whether Johnson/Weld is broad or a GOP splinter, given the low-goveernment ideas of the libertarians and the selection of two GOP anti-Trump governors.

3DP and Party Contest are the keys to watch.

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