Allan Lichtman, with a “perfect” record, predicts this year’s election

According to the New York Times video below, Allan Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, has had a “perfect” record of predicting the winners of election since 1984, and that supposedly includes Trump’s win over Clinton four years ago (but see the caveat below). Lichtman is a Democrat, but says that he keeps his own views out of his predictions, which are based on a method laid out in his 1996 book The Keys to the White House.  His method is based on answering “true” or “false” to 13 questions about the country and the candidate (only two are about the candidate’s own characteristics), and counting the number of “false” answers.  Here are the “keys” from Wikipedia:

The Keys are statements that favor victory (in the popular vote count) for the incumbent party. When five or fewer statements are false, the incumbent party is predicted to win the popular vote; when six or more are false, the challenging party is predicted to win the popular vote.

  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.
  2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.
  3. Incumbency: The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.
  4. Third party: There is no significant third party or independent campaign.
  5. Short-term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  6. Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.
  7. Policy change: The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.
  8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term.
  9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  12. Incumbent (party) charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.
  13. Challenger (party) charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

The above 13 keys are slightly different from the 12 keys originally proposed in 1981.

Now this is somewhat subjective, as there are questions like “is there a major scandal around the President?” and “is the candidate charismatic?”. Further, while the article below touts his perfect record in prediction, you have to qualify that a bit. As Wikipedia notes,

In the contested election of 2000, the system predicted the popular vote winner, although not actual winners. As a result in 2000, he predicted using his system that Gore would be the next president; Gore won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. In September 2016, the Keys forecast that Donald Trump would win the popular vote in the 2016 election, whereas he lost the popular vote, but won the electoral college.

So you have to do some fast tap-dancing to say Lichtman’s record is “perfect”.   Nevertheless, he has now predicted the winner of the popular vote in November’s election.  If you click on the screenshot below, you’ll go to a short video in which Lichtman runs through the questions and comes up with a prediction.  I won’t reveal it here; watch the video and try not to give away the answer in the comments.

Now of course Lichtman isn’t really “perfect”, and you can take what he says with a grain of salt, but all of us are biting our nails about November. I predicted that Trump would lose, but those are based on “Coyne’s Key”, which involve only one question: “Did the incumbent make a perfect ass of himself in a way that would alienate most Americans?”  Let’s have a brief poll to see where readers stand. This is for the winner of the electoral college vote, that is, who gets to be President in January.

79 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    I am sure his procedure makes sense to him and he probably sold some books which is the main goal. He does not even answer some of his own questions correctly, his foreign policy question for one.

    One thing I learned the other day. The idea about the 40 Percent floor. Almost all candidates will get 40% approval or 40% polling results. It makes no difference who you look at. Back in 1932, Hoover was in the middle of the depression and he still got nearly a 40% approval. So 40 percent is the floor and nothing, not even a totally corrupt president will change that. Let’s call it the human stupidity factor. I should now write a book.

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Yes, I saw that discussion as well. Muy interesante’. It was the first time I became fully aware the ratio of morons to non-morons in the US may not have changed much at all since 1776.

      Take a gander at Russia as another example; every year, like clockwork, a gang of freakin’ morons appear on Red Square to celebrate the life of Stalin.

      This may indicate that the ratio is the same there as well. It may be true world-wide. Nah, not possible.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:35 am | Permalink

      The 40% floor is cooked into the two-party system. Except for the race in which there was a viable third-party candidate siphoning off votes (viz., Ross Perot in 1992), in the modern era, the losing presidential candidate has failed to reach the 40% mark in just two blow-out elections — Barry Goldwater in ’64 and George McGovern in ’72 — and then, just barely (38.5% and 37.5%, respectively).

      • jezgrove
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:17 am | Permalink

        There was a brilliant moment in the BBC’s live coverage of the ’92 election when one of the states was erroneously called for Perot. The expert onscreen went into a whole “this changes everything” monologue before his brain kicked in and he interrupted his own analysis to say “if Perot has won there, then I’m a Dutchman”. The glitch was revealed shortly afterwards. To be fair to the pundit it was the early hours of the morning over here.

  2. Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    “Coyne’s Key” Fantasimo! Lichman must add this key to his critical arsenal of considerations.

    But, there is one important element that you are overlooking: a way-too-sizable segment of the electorate adores idiots who make total asses of themselves. That’s why we have Prez. Orange Glow and Kanye West gathering signatures to challenge the Orange Glow idiot.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    In the absence of some type of “black swan” event between now and November 3rd, Trump’s goose is cooked (if you’ll pardon the juxtaposition of ornithological metaphors).

    • A C Harper
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      I’ll agree… with the proviso that there is enough time for a Biden ‘Black Swan’ to emerge if only in the minds of enough swing voters.

  4. Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    I read the Times’ teaser about this, but did not watch the video, and won’t now. For a journalist to say, “I’ve got a great story, but I won’t tell you what it is, because I want to keep your eyeballs on my channel/page for longer, so I’ll let you know what the story is after I’ve made you sit through a bunch of other stuff,” is one of the worst parts of cable news that transferred seamlessly to the web. It’s the tactic that made MSNBC unwatchable. To see the Times stoop to it is disheartening, but perhaps no longer surprising. In newspapers it’s called “burying the lede”, and used to be considered a journalistic sin. I made a comment to this effect on the Times piece; the moderators did not allow it.

    GCM

    [I try never to comment on Jerry or Matthew’s posts as whyevolutionistrue, but the new commenting glitch that Jerry has mentioned put this comment as coming from Jerry, even though I entered my own particulars in the appropriate places.]

    • Steve Gerrard
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      This has been a terrible development, with what was once good news reporting devolving into clickbait, right alongside the junk ads. These days, if the fantastic piece of news promised within did not make it to the headline or the first sentence, I usually conclude it is junk news, and ignore it.

  5. Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    This Lichtman fellow has made a good media career for himself out of his various predictions.

    In 2019 he predicted Trump *would* be impeached….

    …but in 2018 he predicted he wouldn’t be impeached; “I see grounds for it, as an observer, but I don’t see the politics of it,” Mr. Lichtman said last week when asked where he puts the odds.”

    ….And in 2017 he predicted Trump would be impeached and that Pence would become president.

    I predict that the decisive thing in the upcoming election will be how effectively Trump can kneecap the Post Office.

  6. Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    Even if one thinks Lichtman’s process is a good predictor (I doubt it), this year’s election is so unusual I would take his prediction with the smallest grain of salt I could find. Even if Biden wins, will Trump cheat in ways we can’t even imagine right now? Here’s my prediction. Things are going to get really crazy as we approach the election and, assuming Biden is declared the winner, even crazier between Election and Inauguration Days. He would whip up his supporters into a gun-toting frenzy demanding that the election be overturned because of the Democratic “coup”.

  7. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    “the Nostradamus of presidential elections” — yeah, well, word has it Nostradamus was a flake, too.

  8. Armando
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    “…has had a “perfect” record of predicting the winners of election (the popular vote) since 1984, and that includes Trump’s win over Clinton four years ago.” Wait a second, I was under the impression that Clinton won the popular vote with close to 66M votes (against Trump’s close to 63M votes). Maybe you meant “electoral college vote”.

  9. JohnE
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Jerry: I think you need one more option for your poll — which is “total chaos”. Trump can’t conceive of losing, such that I’m very afraid that he will do whatever is necessary to prevent his being declared the loser of the 2020 election. Given the fact that an enormous number of votes will be cast by mail this time, and given the fact Trump is already screaming about the “massive fraud” that is going to result from mail-in ballots, it has been suggested that the counting of those ballots will delay any declaration of a winner on election night. It has also been suggested that we should not underestimate the corruptness of Trump (and Barr), who might preemptively seize the uncounted mail-in ballots using the pretense of fraud.

    If Trump disputes that he lost the election, you can count on his well-armed “second amendment people” to rush to Washington to try prevent his removal, just as they did with Bundy Ranch standoff (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bundy_standoff). Scary stuff.

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      There’s also sending in law enforcement to polling places to “ensure the vote is done safely” but actually intended to intimidate. I would not be surprised to see this in Red states and Trump might even send Feds into Blue states like he did in Portland.

    • Historian
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:23 am | Permalink

      Yes, this is no ordinary election because a sociopathic malignant narcissist is running for re-election. If Biden wins, there can be no sigh of relief until he is sworn in. If Trump wins, the consequences are beyond contemplation. However, it would say that around half the country couldn’t give a crap about democracy or the rule of law. But, we already know that, don’t we?

  10. mikeb
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    If enough people make predictions, several of them will be correct by chance alone.

    How many are in the business of predicting things like presidential election outcomes? Thousands? Think at least one might turn out to be “right” all the time?”

    I’m not impressed.

    • phoffman56
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

      Exactly. I had not read your comment before posting #19 below, which just puts some numbers to it.

  11. AlTazim
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    From 1984 isn’t a huge sample size, and like you said, some of these are easy enough to adjust ex post facto so that it looks like your claims are bulletproof. If I count some things as major failures/successes/scandals, as well as what makes a third party campaign “significant”, it looks like Bob Dole should have won in 1996; if I don’t, then what actually happened, a Clinton win, is the correct call.

    Also, just a hunch, but evaluating whether “Trump is charismatic” is going to heavily depend on party alignment.

  12. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Alan Lichtman is “always right” in predicting election results in the same sense a Texas sharpshooter always hits the bullseye.

  13. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I’m surprise that (as of the writing of this comment) over 17% of the people here still think Trump is going to win. They’re apparently under the misimpression that Trump is some kind of political Übermensch because he pulled off a big upset last time — when he’s actually just a sap who went all-in against a better hand in a game of Texas Hold ‘Em, but sucked out a winning inside straight on the final card (known as “the river”).

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:33 am | Permalink

      Perhaps they are thinking of the cheating Trump will undoubtedly attempt. Perhaps the poll question should have been:

      Who will win the 2020 Presidential election (electoral college vote), assuming Trump’s cheating is not effective?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:53 am | Permalink

        Yeah, mebbe so. But I’m betting that all of Vlad’s horses and all of Vlad’s men couldn’t put that Trumpty Dumpty together again.

  14. Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Here’s my take. I am cautiously optimistic that Biden will beat Trump on 3-Nov.

    I refuse to say anything more confident than that: My butt still hurts from 9-Nov 2016, waking up and hearing tRump had won.

    My reasoning:

    – tRump barely won by a true squeaker in 2016. He lost the popular vote by more than 2% (2.9M votes out of 137M cast). His was the fourth closest EC win since 1920.

    – tRump won WI, MI, and PA, key swing states, by a total of 77,000 votes distributed among those state.

    – tRump was an unknown in 2016, brash, confident. Many voters were dissatisfied with the long, slow economic recovery and with the two parties as-is. tRump shook things up. Many probably thought, let’s give him a try!

    – The economy is doing very badly indeed, particularly for those blue-collar men who are much of tRump’s support (then again, they instantiate the 5th Avenue Effect, so they will likely vote tRump regardless.)

    – The pandemic and tRump’s miserable response(s) (changing daily) to it. This was tRump’s 9-11 or Pearl Harbor moment. He had a golden opportunity to prove what a “great leader” he is [I have to use the scare quotes]. The epitaph, I predict, for the tRump Admin. will be, “No, I don’t take responsibility at all!” (tRump, 13-Mar-2020).

    – tRump’s behavior in office. Surely, combined with the economy and the pandemic, this will lose him every independent vote.

    – His impeachment and his sordid behavior surrounding it (refusal to honor congressional subpeonas, etc., etc.).

    All of this leads me to think that tRump cannot pull the rabbit out of the hat again (as David Frum agrees).

    (All of this presumes a fair election. And I think that Trump and Co. and the Russians, for instance are going to do everything they can to either steal the election or make it seem illegitimate. Either way, that works in Trump’s favor.)

    My $0.02. Hoping for a Bye-Don result on 3-Nov-20.

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:30 am | Permalink

      And I didn’t mention the following:

      – There is organized, prominent, public opposition from within tRump’s own party to oust him and support Biden. This is unprecedented in my lifetime. I have heard many life-long GOP voters say publicly that they will vote for the Dem candidate in 2020. One good friend has publicly declared himself no longer a GOP member (he was a life-long GOP guy): Because of tRump and his enablers in the national and local GOP.

      – Much of the left end of the Dem Party spent 2016 publicly proclaiming what a POS Hillary Clinton was. This wasn’t exactly the best get-out-the-vote strategy. HRC got 4M fewer votes in 2016 than Obama got in 2008. I have to think they won’t make the same damned mistake in 2020.

  15. Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    My answer, as Zhou Enlai said when asked about the impact of the French revolution, it is too soon to tell.

    • jezgrove
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:39 am | Permalink

      Yup, I’m afraid that I’m with you on that.

  16. Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    One other comment: It seems to me that the rest of the world are holding their breath on our election this fall.

    I think my friends in Europe and elsewhere think that the USA was, you know, drunk or something, when we picked tRump in 2016.

    If we (Hank forbid) double-down on tRump? Our influence in the world will be over, for a generation at least.

    Who would the world look to? Perhaps Merkel and Germany. More likely, seems to me, is China. Especially if the EU continues to erode, as with Brexit.

    Putin is laughing his ass off.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

      … my friends in Europe and elsewhere think that the USA was, you know, drunk or something, when we picked tRump in 2016.

      Been a helluva three-and-a-half year hangover price to pay so far.

  17. Posted August 7, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    May I ask someone from the 17% who think tRump will win in November, to please provide your reasoning on that?

    Thanks!

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 11:46 am | Permalink

      My hunch is they’re Trump supporters and are swimming in the Kool-Aid.

      • Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

        Speaking as one of the 17%, I find that comment offensive.

        The reason why I think Trump will win (and note the poll specifically says “the electoral college”, not the popular vote) is because he is gaining in the polls. In the last month he has gained 2% on Biden. If that trend continues it puts him within 5% on election day. I think that’s close enough that voter suppression, sabotage of the postal system and all the other nefarious tactics will put Trump over the line.

        I hope I’m wrong, but right now I’m not optimistic.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

          But, remember, Dems are so desperate to turn him out, they’d crawl over glass on bear knees to get to a voting booth (or risk COVID-19). tRump’s core is strongly motivated, but anyone in the middle is simply not going for him this time around. No one is going to say, “Give him a chance. See how he does.”

          • Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

            Conventional wisdom is that Dems are more likely to try to vote by post and therefore the Dem vote is more vulnerable to postal sabotage. If you couple that with other suppression measures such as not having enough polling stations in Democrat areas and the existing gerrymandering plus the Republican bias built into the Electoral College, I don’t think enough Democrats will get to vote to overcome the Trump support.

            I hope I’m wrong, but I think you are screwed.

            • rickflick
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:35 pm | Permalink

              On the other hand, the postal service probably reviles tRump and would work for free to make sure he’s voted out.

            • rickflick
              Posted August 7, 2020 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

              Note too that:

              “U.S. Intelligence Warns China Opposes Trump Reelection, Russia Works Against Biden”

              Looks like they might cancel each other out.

          • Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

            Unfortunately, some may have to crawl over glass on bare knees and may not make it before closing time.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:49 pm | Permalink

          Offensive? Oh please.

          I was just following Occam’s Razor. If 40% of Americans support Trump and think he’ll win, then why is it a stretch to think many of the 17% who voted today are Trump supporters? I don’t presume that the thousands of people who read WEIT are 100% on the side of Biden.

          • Posted August 8, 2020 at 3:19 am | Permalink

            I was just following Occam’s Razor.

            No you weren’t. Occam’s razor demands that you accept the simplest answer that explains all the data, not the first one that comes into your head.

            If 40% of Americans support Trump and think he’ll win, then why is it a stretch to think many of the 17% who voted today are Trump supporters?
            Because the question wasn’t “who do you want to win?”, it was “who do you think will win?”

            I don’t presume that the thousands of people who read WEIT are 100% on the side of Biden.

            I do presume that most of them read the question and answered the question that was asked. And if a proportion of the readership is Trump supporters I wouldn’t presume that they were necessarily all going to select the Trump option as the answer.

            • Posted August 8, 2020 at 3:21 am | Permalink

              Sorry. Screwed up the block quotes. Hopefully I’ll get it right this time:

              I was just following Occam’s Razor.

              No you weren’t. Occam’s razor demands that you accept the simplest answer that explains all the data, not the first one that comes into your head.

              If 40% of Americans support Trump and think he’ll win, then why is it a stretch to think many of the 17% who voted today are Trump supporters?

              Because the question wasn’t “who do you want to win?”, it was “who do you think will win?”

              I don’t presume that the thousands of people who read WEIT are 100% on the side of Biden.

              I do presume that most of them read the question and answered the question that was asked. And if a proportion of the readership is Trump supporters I wouldn’t presume that they were necessarily all going to select the Trump option as the answer.

              • Mark R.
                Posted August 8, 2020 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

                Fair enough.

      • A C Harper
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

        If you are going to be tendentious then perhaps you should also consider how many Biden supporters are also swimming in their own Kool-Aid.

        Yes, Trump is awful and a bulshitter running the Presidency as a businessman rather than a politician. But some people will find that more appealing than the palid alternative with no compelling vision for the future.

        For some people the allegations of Russiagate are unwinding and pointing back at the Obama presidency. To some people the Impeachment was a failed political hatchet job that collapsed. Some people believe that Biden has flaws that would make him unsuitable as a President.

        The big question is how big the numbers of ‘some’ people are, and whether Trump can mobilise this part of the electorate.

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

          “For some people”

          But not you, right? I’d favor Biden’s flaws over Trump’s any day. And, no, nothing is pointing back at Obama except in the fevered dreams of bullshit artists. Some people are currently polishing off the old “she used a public email server” ploy to use with Biden’s VP pick and they don’t even know who it is. Or so I have heard … from some people.

        • Mark R.
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:20 pm | Permalink

          Yes, Trump is awful and a bullshitter running the Presidency as a businessman rather than a politician.

          How is he running the Presidency as a businessman? OK, yeah, he’s making a profit everywhere he can, leveraging his Presidential power to bolster his businesses and fleece the taxpayers. There is no comparison to how Trump is “running the Presidency”. He’s running nothing, just cons and desperate attempts, some successful, mostly in the realm of dividing the country and destroying the status quo. Nothing a “business man would do”. To be successful in business (and politics), one must bring customers to you, and be as amicable, generic and appealing to all as much as possible.

          • Posted August 8, 2020 at 3:38 am | Permalink

            How is he running the Presidency as a businessman?

            If the businessman in question is Donald Trump?

            I think Trump is trying to run the USA in the same way as he would run a business. There are two problems with that:

            1. The USA is not a business

            2. Trump was a very bad businessman with a string of bankruptcies and a reputation for scamming suppliers and customers.

            • Mark R.
              Posted August 8, 2020 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

              Yeah, running it like he’d run a business…exactly.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      I think it’s superstition. They know Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, and Michael Myers always somehow survive the sequel.

    • Renton
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

      Speaking for myself, I think Trump will win because of the weakness of his opposition. This goes beyond Biden’s poor speaking skills. We all know Biden is prone to gaffes and, at times, appears confused talking in public. This is obviously a detriment, but not a huge one – despite a poor start, he easily won the Democratic nomination. However, I just don’t think he has exhibited the vision or leadership necessary to oust a sitting president. People don’t like change. Given a choice, they’ll stick with what they know rather than take a risk on something new. A bold, charismatic leader who can paint an exciting picture of the future can make them change their minds, but nothing I’ve seen of Biden makes me think he can do that.

      On top of that, the Democrats are embracing more radical politicians like AOC and Ilhan Omar, who are calling for open borders, a socialist economy, and abolishing the police. I don’t see how Biden can escape being associated with these positions because they are coming from inside his own party and he hasn’t articulated a bold vision of his own. This will help Trump to position himself as a moderate, law and order candidate – a better platform to run on than his own record.

      Then there is the progressives, who are angry that Sanders and Warren didn’t win, which I think will drive down turnout among Democrats in November. A lot of progressives could end up staying home or switching their vote to Trump (a lot of them did this in 2016).

      As far as I can see, unless Biden changes his campaign strategy, his only hope is that the recession continues without any sign of improvement. Otherwise, my feeling is that Biden’s poll numbers will slowly slip through August and September until he’s finally overtaken in October or early November. According to Fivethirtyeitht, this process may have already started. He was up by 9.5 at the start of July, now he’s up by 7.5 – a solid lead, but the signs are worrying.

      • Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

        Thanks.

        I think you’ve brought up important points.

        I come down on them differently (no surprise, I’m sure).

        1. Uncle Joe is a known quantity. He’s not Barrack Obama (exciting), he’s steady. And predictable. After being on the tRump roller coaster for 3.5 years, I think the electorate is yearning for stability, for steady, for dignified. This is certainly what I hear from many, including many GOP folk.

        As David Frum (lifelong Republican) says, Joe Biden, he’ll do.

        2. I agree that the Loud Left of the Dem Party are a big concern. But, in my opinion, Biden has successfully posed himself as the steady, middle-of-the-road alternative to the Loud Left. This seems like a positive to me. (Many GOPers in the midwest, where I live we expressing (on our local NPR station) that they wanted to vote Dem. They literally said, “give me a Democrat I can vote for.” And that category definitely included Biden and did not include Warren and Sanders.)

        3. As I noted in my long note, I don’t think the far left of the Dem Party will sit on their hands this time (make the same mistake as in 2016). Everything about the tRump admin. and its actions (pick any action, gutting EPA rules, SCOTUS appointments, foreign policy, pulling out of the Paris agreement, etc., etc.) are diametrically opposed to their views. And certainly they have a better chance to be heard by Biden and his staff that by tRump and his minions (as David Frum describes them: Crooks, Fanatics, and Incompetents; and: His admin. attracts people for all the wrong reasons).

        A narrowing margin will be no surprise.

        You suggest Biden needs to change his campaign strategy. What do you think he should change and how?

        I think the only big question is his VP choice, which is a more momentous one than ever in my lifetime, especially as he’s committed to a woman pick. (I favor Susan Rice. We shall see! Not too long to wait now.)

        • Renton
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

          I don’t have any experience running political campaigns, so when it comes to political strategy I can only speak in generalities. However, from my perspective, Biden needs to create a core message to his campaign. Voters should know what direction he wants the country to move in, and what the country would look like if he was in charge. If he can encapsulate this vision into a catchy slogan (Change We Can Believe In, Make America Great Again), that would be ideal. Right now, his campaign message appears to be “I’m Not Donald Trump,” which is appealing but not inspiring. “Not George Bush” was essentially the message Kerry ran on, and it didn’t work because it let Bush dictate the tempo of the campaign. Compare it to how Reagan spoke when he challenged the incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980: “For those who’ve abandoned hope, we’ll restore hope and we’ll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again.” Pointing out Trump is an idiot is a good starting point, but Biden should build on it by painting an exciting vision of what America could be under his leadership.

          Once he has his message, Biden needs to find a way to get it out in front of the American people. I know it is difficult to campaign because of COVID, but he has to find some way of getting media attention through TV, radio, or internet. Right now, Trump appears to be dominating the discourse. Everyone is talking about what he’s doing, saying, or tweeting. Most of it is foolish, but it does two things. It allows him to get his message out (however incoherently) and it steals attention away Biden from, preventing him from getting his message out.

          If Biden could so this, I’d be less concerned about some of the other problems I mentioned: Biden’s gaffe’s, radical Democrats, and the angry progressive wing. Trump proved that a bad public speaker can motivate people if he has a strong message. If Biden captures the media’s attention, the radical Dems would be less of a distraction. And a strong message would help mollify the progressive wing.

          • Posted August 10, 2020 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

            These are all good points, thanks.

            I agree these are important. He’s starting to come out with policy statements.

            Getting the cameras away from the Orange Menace will always be a challenge. The incumbent always has a huge attention advantage. Seems that tRump can’t capitalize on that, so far at least.

            I still cannot see any independent voting for tRump at this stage.

            (He won by 77,000 votes in 2016.)

      • Posted August 7, 2020 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        And therein lies the problem for the Dems. You bring up Biden’s poor speaking skills and yes, they are a problem for him – or at least the perception is.

        However, compare Biden’s speaking skills to Trump’s. Trump can’t string a coherent sentence together. When he has a script to follow, he reads it in a flat monotone as if he doesn’t understand what the words mean.

        But it doesn’t matter. The bar for Trump is much lower than the bar for Biden for some bizarre reason and I agree that this will help him get within spitting distance of Biden in the polls and cheating will do the rest.

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:19 pm | Permalink

          Yes. I’ve thought quite often why the bar is so low for Trump. It’s probably a combination of things but I think the main one is that he doesn’t ever apologize or admit to making a mistake. When Joe Biden makes a gaffe, he apologizes for his mistake. While we are happy to receive his apology, we still register the mistake and the apology ensures that we do.

          Trump, on the other hand, will explain how it wasn’t a mistake at all. If there’s an explanation that is even remotely plausible, he’ll find it. If he is forced to, he may replace the bad statement with a new one but still not admit to a mistake. Typically he’ll try to convince everyone they misheard. Even if we see through it, it is still quite effective. If he’s a genius at anything, which is doubtful, it is his understanding of human dynamics in situations like this.

          Reminds me of the famous Joey Bishop, Imogene Coca bedroom skit: https://youtu.be/yN2gU0XU5FU

        • Posted August 10, 2020 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

          “Yo — Semites” springs to mind.

      • phoffman56
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

        Interesting that someone can give a ‘comprehensive’ survey, indicating why Trump will likely win, one which does not once mention the corona virus.

        • Renton
          Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:20 pm | Permalink

          I think Trump’s poor handling of COVID, and the resulting economic downturn, is the reason why Biden is doing so well at the moment. This is clearly the area where Trump is most vulnerable and it has exposed his weaknesses as chief executive. However, while Biden is happy to point out how badly Trump is doing, I don’t think he’s doing a good job explaining what he would do different when he got into office. I don’t think he needs to deliver a comprehensive plan, just some idea people can gleam onto, the way FDR rallied people during the Great Depression. By being passive, he’s ceding the initiative to Trump and that if Trump is allowed to dominate the national discourse, he’ll win enough voters to get reelected. People reelect bad presidents if they are not properly challenged. Look at Bush in 2004.

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Forty+ percent is a solid foundation which hasn’t wavered and shows no signs of doing so. Given that early on with the coronavirus Trump’s popularity was pushing 50%.

      Fear of the virus will prevent people who know what a virus is from voting in person, so Trump voters will be the only ones out in force, and postal votes can be prevented, suppressed or lost at very many points in the entire procedure.

      In short, all Trump needs to do to win is to cause enough fear and chaos to stop Dem voters from voting or their votes being counted.

      I hope desperately that this is not what happens. This is the most dangerous period in modern history since the Cuban missile crisis, and half the population of the of the offending country hasn’t noticed any problem at all. (And much of the other half is excitedly watching the polls while everything collapses around them.)

      • Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

        This is the big worry: tRump (and outside forces) cheating or delegitimizing the election.

        I agree. I am cautiously optimistic that a decisive cheat will not be permitted in any states except “red” ones, where tRump will win regardless.

        WI, MI, and PA all have Dem governors.

      • Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:08 pm | Permalink

        And, thanks!

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

          Thanks for asking! …I am also more optimistic than I was last time, but still utterly horrified by the whole situation. I don’t know how to deal with a situation like that other than try to win the political war and set about trying slowly to win over the next generation to the side of democracy.

      • Mark R.
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

        Fear of the virus will prevent people who know what a virus is from voting in person, so Trump voters will be the only ones out in force, and postal votes can be prevented.

        I agree that the postal debacle is a huge concern. Democrats are trying to fix this with the “Heroes Act” but Republicans won’t act and Trump’s appointed “Postal Master” is a toady.
        That being said, the Trump’s Tulsa rally with its pitiful attendance is proof that Trump voters don’t take the virus lightly. Yes, they are more likely to act stupid, not wear masks, etc., but the elderly, the majority of which voted for Trump, aren’t so cavalier. One reason why Trump said this week that Florida voters need to get their absentee ballots (while suing Nevada for implementing the same thing). He knows the elderly aren’t going to stand in line even for him during this pandemic.
        And the recent vote in Wisconsin where their Supreme Court ordered in-person voting showed that Dems aren’t going to stay away from the polls in the midst of this pandemic.

    • pablo
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

      Before Covid I was pretty certain Trump would win, now I’m cautiously optimistic he won’t. It’s not because of Trump’s abysmal handling of the pandemic but rather because Covid is keeping Biden from meeting with radical fringe groups where he would be recorded pandering and making outlandish promises he would never actually try to fulfill. Democrats are always their own worst enemies.
      I’m afraid that the riots might swing the election back to Trump though. When I bring this up to progressives, they call me racist.

      • Posted August 10, 2020 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        “I’m afraid that the riots might swing the election back to Trump though. When I bring this up to progressives, they call me racist.”

        I agree 100%. Many of my progressive interlocutors just can’t see this stuff. They seem to just have stars in their eyes, for some reason (and they are all above the age of 50, for goodness sake!).

        The good news, WA and OR will go Biden (IMO).

  18. rickflick
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    What strikes me is, Biden is favored by a margin of just one item out of 13.
    But, I like the fact that it is objective. It’s very difficult to do a prediction in the context of your own likes and dislikes.

  19. phoffman56
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    Just before every such election, there are exactly two possibilities, despite a few other hopeless candidates. It sounds ‘very impressive’ that some person can be right 10 times in a row, among the thousands, almost everybody, who have a feeling, a sense of better than 50-50 probability of which of the two will win.

    But let’s make it purely random–and only 1,000 people make such a guess, 10 times in a row, with probability ½ each time that they are right.

    I claim (not a probabilist, but I’d be intensely embarrassed if this is wrong) that it is MORE THAN LIKELY that the ONE OF THEM GETS ALL 10 CORRECT.

    So the people can be called x1, x2, etc., and x will be any one of them.

    PROB(x correct on all 10)=(½ times itself 10 times), which is 1/1024

    So, PROB(x wrong once or more)=1023/1024

    PROB(all of x1, x2, ..wrong once or more)= (1023/1024)times itself 1,000 times

    Oddly enough, this last number is very, very close to a very simple fraction, namely ⅜, easy to get your machine to do.

    So about 5 times out of 8 there will be at least one person getting all 10 correct, merely with using a coin flip to decide which is his or her pick.

    Caveats:
    It should be better than 5 of 8 when using surveys and other info instead of a coin flip. But despite 1,000 being a lot less than how many have a guess in their head, it is much more than the number who succeed to go very public with their guess.

    But this news story is a perfect illustration of the natural difficulty people have estimating probabilities, as well as illustrating the breathless stupidity of the popular media in increasing the level of ignorance of the general public.

  20. Gregory Kusnick
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:10 pm | Permalink

    Here’s my long-shot scenario:

    Trump calls for the election to be delayed until the Covid crisis has passed. Most red states go along with this; most blue states ignore him and go ahead with their elections as planned. California is one of the latter, and Pelosi easily retains her seat. But there’s enough uncertainty about when the 117th Congress can be convened that she declines to adjourn the 116th.

    Trump insists he’s still President until he decides it’s safe to hold an election. Democrats disagree and sue to have him and Pence removed from office when their terms expire. The dispute goes to the Supreme Court, and Pelosi (who is still technically Speaker) gets sworn in by Roberts as acting President on January 20, pending a proper election.

    I don’t say this is what will happen, but I think it’s all too plausible that something like this could happen.

    • Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

      But only Congress can change the election date. Not Trump, and not the states either. Why would the House agree to a delay?

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 7, 2020 at 8:52 pm | Permalink

        Ballots aren’t issued by Congress, but by the Secretaries of State of the individual states. Similarly, the electors in the Electoral College answer to the states, not to Congress. If red state governors refuse to issue ballots or convene their electors, what can Congress do about it?

        • Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

          I suppose go to SCOTUS and demand that the refusing States obey a 175 year old Congressional Statute, or have the their ballots issued by regent appointed by the Court.

          • Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:39 pm | Permalink

            I guess the term is “Special Master.”

            Help, Ken Kukec!

          • Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

            Clause 4 the U.S. Constitution.

            The Congress may determine the Time of chusing [sic] the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.

            I am certain the States can have no say in the matter.

            • Gregory Kusnick
              Posted August 8, 2020 at 12:27 am | Permalink

              Look, I’m not saying it would be legal for states to take it upon themselves to delay the election. But I guarantee you Trump doesn’t care if it’s legal, and unfortunately I think we have ample evidence that some GOP governors will happily side with Trump over the Constitution.

              • Posted August 8, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

                Well, it would be interesting if the red states went rogue over the date of the election. I’m just trying to get my head around what would happen if they did.

    • Posted August 10, 2020 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

      I do not put it past tRump to try anything, especially if he sends his handlers out of town that day [any old day] …

  21. Tim J Reichert
    Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:32 pm | Permalink

    Trump loses the popular vote by a lot and probably loses the electoral college in a nail biter. Ken Kukec you are most likely getting paid.

    But that’s with Biden being kept in the basement. He will have to speak more often and live down the stretch. Debates? If anyone can blow this lead Biden can.

    • Mark R.
      Posted August 7, 2020 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

      No debates unless Trump releases his taxes. Without that, Biden can’t counter the “Ukraine corruption” charges which are inevitable. Then he can bring the fact that Trump “promised” to reveal his taxes after election, or after a non-audit was over, or the other bullshit excuses in the arsenal. Courts are getting it, we should too. I know Biden will be called “scared” or whatever, but going into the lion’s den without so much as a stick is folly. Demand, it won’t appear, and step out. Use that as a rallying cry (again) of how corrupt and untrustworthy the maniac in chief is.


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