13 Keys to the White House Indicate a Republican Win in 2020

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?

The Keys to the White House – by Allan Lichtman

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 elections02018 midterm elections
2 – Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination0.71Predictit.org Probability of Trump being the GOP nominee
3 – Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president0.71See answer above
4 – Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign (more than 5%)1Predictit.org third party probabilities
5 – Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign0.44Predictit.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 terms0.5According to the FRED [1][2] economic growth is higher under Trump than under Obama
7 – Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy1Major changes include Tax, Trade, and Environmental Regulation
8 – Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term0.9Not even the shutdown or Mueller investigation led to sustained social unrest
9 – Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal0Russian meddling, breach of the emoluments clause, #metoo
10 – Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs0.9So far, so good for the Republicans
11 – Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs0.2Perhaps 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 hero0.73Predictit.org Republican nomination is likely charismatic
13 – Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero0.69Predictit.org Democratic nomination – sum probability of Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, Beto O’Rourke, and Cory Booker
Total score:7.8Incumbent 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.

GOP nomination

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.

5 Replies to “13 Keys to the White House Indicate a Republican Win in 2020”

  1. A lot of this is premature. Keys 1, 9, and 12 are clearly and irreversibly against the Republicans. Lichtman counts 12 against the Republicans as Trump’s popularity and appeal are limited and offset by his negatives. Trump might be considered charismatic by many conventional standards, but not by the standards of the keys. He falls below an FDR, JFK, Reagan, or Obama in 2008. Key 13 depends on who gets the Democratic nomination so is too early to tell. Key 11 is currently against the Republicans, but it is possible for them to pull off a triumph however unlikely.

    Only key 7 is clearly and irreversibly in favor of the Republicans according to Lichtman. I find that one questionable given that the tax bill isn’t really a major shift in domestic policy. I don’t see how the 2017 tax bill counts but the 2001 tax bill didn’t. Lichtman also factors in regulatory changes, but I don’t see how that counts for a policy change now but not Obama’s regulatory changes. I’m deferring to his call on this, but a further clarification of how to secure key seven would be helpful.

    Keys 2 and 3 are likely to remain favorable to the Republicans.

    Key 4 is premature. If Schultz remains in the race and gains traction, it would hurt the incumbent Republicans and not the Democrats. A strong third party challenge is indication of dissatisfaction of the country’s governance. The keys are a referendum on the performance of the party holding the White House.

    Key 8 has not turned, but the U.S. right now is a proverbial powder keg. This key has turned spontaneously and their are many fracture points in the U.S. right now where it’s easy to see how it could turn. Key 10 is similar, Trump’s foreign policy has been an incoherent mess and has disrupted long held assumptions about foreign policy and U.S. leadership. There’s enough fissures that it’s not hard to imagine a Trump impulsive decision leading to a foreign policy disaster.

    The two keys that are hardest to predict are 5 and 6. Signs are pointing to a recession that lasts into 2020, any recession during an election year is an automatic loss of key 5. How bad that recession is could turn 6 as well.

    Also a note, the incumbent party needs to win eight or more keys to win the popular vote. And the keys are binary, they either turn or they don’t.

    So far Republicans are down four keys, and likely a fifth unless the economy doesn’t head into a recession. The remaining keys are either in favor of the Republicans are on balance more in favor than against. Also of note that in all instances where the incumbent party won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College, there were five keys against them, only one away from the fatal sixth. It’s too early to tell whether Republicans have an advantage or not.

    1. Recession after 3.2% 1st Quarter GDP growth? As Carville said, “its the economy, stupid.”
      Consumer confidence at a 10-year high. Real wages going up, when they went down under Obama.

      The destruction of ISIS is a big win, NATO paying more is a big win and US Embassy in Jerusalem is a big win (one that the past 4-Presidents paid lip-service to, but did nothing). These are results you can’t achieve when leading from behind.

    2. I heard Lichtman say that 9 is still in favor of Trump, and he counts 3 for Democrats: 1, 11 & 12.

    1. No, it isn’t good—it’s excellent! I am a reformed Democrat who finally saw the light during the campaign of 2016, and will never vote for a Democrat again for any office. They disgust and nauseate me. KAG 2020!

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