Preliminary Data Suggests That the GOP is in the Lead For the Upcoming Presidential Elections, Measured by The 13 Keys to the White House. What is Needed For a Democratic Victory in 2020?
There are 13 ‘keys’ that help unlock the White House, according to Professor and American political historian Allan Lichtman. The incumbent party needs 7 or more of these keys in order to stay in the White House.
Crucially, this method of predicting which party will win the 2020 election does not use any polling data. Instead, factors like the economy, achievements of the current administration, and candidates’ charisma will determine which party gets elected. According to Allan Lichtman, who teaches at the American University in Washington, D.C., this method is more accurate than polling, and has predicted outcomes correctly since the 1980’s.
The keys are presented as 13 statements that can be scored true (1) or false (0). According to this method, if the sum of these scores is larger than 6.5, then the incumbent party will win the election.
While the verity of some of the statements are already known (such as the result of the midterm elections), other answers are still up in the air. However, we can already get a best-estimate for the undecided statements via popular betting markets, such as predictit.org.
When an answer is uncertain, we simply use the probability implied by prediction markets. This allows us to give a (preliminary) answer to all 13 keys to the White House. These answers get more accurate as we get closer to the 2020 election.
13 Keys to the White House
Probabilities retrieved on 21-02-2019. True (= 1) favors the incumbent party, while False (= 0) favors the main challenger.
|1 – Party Mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than after the previous midterm elections||0||2018 midterm elections|
|2 – Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination||0.71||Predictit.org Probability of Trump being the GOP nominee|
|3 – Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president||0.71||See answer above|
|4 – Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign (more than 5%)||1||Predictit.org third party probabilities|
|5 – Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign||0.44||Predictit.org indicates a 44% chance of a recession during the Trump presidency|
|6 – Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms||0.5||According to the FRED  economic growth is higher under Trump than under Obama|
|7 – Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy||1||Major changes include Tax, Trade, and Environmental Regulation|
|8 – Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term||0.9||Not even the shutdown or Mueller investigation led to sustained social unrest|
|9 – Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal||0||Russian meddling, breach of the emoluments clause, #metoo|
|10 – Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs||0.9||So far, so good for the Republicans|
|11 – Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs||0.2||Perhaps North Korea or Syria withdrawal, or the trade war. But no major success yet.|
|12 – Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero||0.73||Predictit.org Republican nomination is likely charismatic|
|13 – Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero||0.69||Predictit.org Democratic nomination – sum probability of Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and Cory Booker|
|Total score:||7.8||Incumbent party is set to win|
The table above gives the incumbent GOP a preliminary score of 7.8, which is above the 6.5 needed to win – indicating that the Republicans are ahead in the 2020 election. But the Democrats need to win just 1.3 points to gain the upper hand.
How Democrats Can Win
Some of the factors in the above table cannot (or should not) be influenced by the Democrats. But there are also things that Democrats can do to increase their chances.
If there is divisive contest for the GOP nomination, and particularly if Trump does not become their nominee, then the GOP looses 1.4 points to the Democrats, and potentially more if the eventual GOP nomination is not charismatic. The worst-possible nomination process for the GOP would set the Republicans 1.9 points behind.
If the economy does go into recession, then the growth under Trump will be lower than under Obama. This would loose the GOP 1.0 point. Currently, there is a 44% chance of this happening before the 2020 election.
Foreign / Military
If the Democrats can engineer a foreign or military crisis (or the appearance thereof), then they stand to gain 0.9 points from this. Similarly, undermining a foreign or military success would give them an additional 0.2 points.
The Democrats can win 0.3 points if they manage to nominate a charismatic candidate. Failing to do so would cost them 0.7 points
The 2020 Winner
Obviously, most of the 13 keys have not been handed out yet. But based on the available data, the Republicans are ahead in the 2020 race to the White House.
To learn more about these 13 keys to the White House, and why they are a good predictor the winning party, you can get the book by Professor Allan Lichtman.