29 Jun 2024

‘If Biden stays the Democrats have a much better chance of winning’ says historian Allan Lichtman

News Correspondent

We spoke to the historian Professor Allan Lichtman, whose 1981 book, The Keys to the White House, attempted to create a system to predict presidential election winners. We began by asking him how disastrous the debate had been for Mr Biden.

Allan Lichtman: The media has vastly overstated this debate. Fourteen people are hardly a scientific sample. There have been now two or three polls taken since the debate, and they show not a bit of movement. Certainly Joe Biden looked old. He looked like he lost a step or two. Trump was forceful and disciplined, but his entire approach was a torrent of lies. More than 30 lies. That’s one lie for every minute and 20 seconds of speaking time.

Ayshah Tull: Obama and Clinton both came out and said, similar to you, that you can recover from a bad debate. But I do wonder, that was a focus group that was speaking, so these are ordinary voters who are watching, thinking, possibly, I can’t believe this is our choice between these two.

Allan Lichtman: A lot of critics are saying the Democrats should replace Biden with a younger, more capable nominee. What all of these critics have in common is no track record of actually predicting presidential election results, and yet here they are giving that advice, and that advice would be to absolutely doom the Democrats to defeat. It would create an open seat and an internal party contest because there’s no obvious heir apparent. Six times since the turn of the 20th century, the party in power has faced an election with no incumbent running and an internal contest. And you know how many times they won those elections? Zero. They lost every one of them.

Ayshah Tull: So if Biden stays, he wins.

Allan Lichtman: I didn’t say that. I said if Biden stays, the Democrats have a much greater chance of winning. I haven’t made a final call on my keys yet, because there are still four shaky keys that I haven’t called – third party, social unrest, foreign/military success and failure. I expect to make my call after the Democratic convention in August.

Ayshah Tull: Allan, can I just ask you one final question, which is do your keys to the white House hold up, given everything that we have seen this year? The convictions that Donald Trump has, the debate that Biden has had, and the constant questions around his suitability and his age. Do your keys mean that, actually, do they withstand everything extraordinary that we’ve seen in this last year?

Allan Lichtman: I’m not psychic Jeane Dixon with a crystal ball. I’m not Speaker Mike Johnson, claims the Almighty speaks to him. The keys are based on history, and there certainly can be events that are so unprecedented and so cataclysmic that they break the pattern of history. That hasn’t happened in the last 40 years. But I’m not so arrogant to say it’s impossible that I could be wrong, but I am sticking to my keys. Everything else, as I said, is unscientific, unsupported, meaningless speculation.