'Never Wrong' Pundit Sticks By Obama in 2012

Allan Lichtman still predicts an Obama victory one year later

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A year ago, Whispers asked political pundit Allan Lichtman to look to his crystal ball (or his highly accurate "key" formula) and make a prediction about who would win the White House in 2012.

Lichtman was confident then that there was no way President Barack Obama could lose.

But that was back when Texas Gov. Rick Perry was leading the polls and threatening Ben Bernanke on the campaign trail, Herman Cain's 9-9-9 tax reform was picking up steam, and Iowa Straw Poll winner Michele Bachmann suggested Hurricane Irene was a "wake up call from God for politicians."

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Now, business-savvy Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is in the hot seat, the economy is still anemic, and the polls are close.

FE_PR_121003ObamaRomneyJerky.jpg
Portraits of Obama and Romney made entirely of beef jerky.

Yet, Lichtman, the mastermind behind the Keys to the White House, continues to cast his lot with Obama.

"Obama is going to win. Nothing has changed. Not a single key has shifted," Lichtman says.

Lichtman predicts presidential elections using 13 "keys," or various scenarios that predict whether the incumbent party will stay in power. The formula is simple. If the political party in power loses six or more keys, they lose the presidency.

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Since Lichtman used it to predict Regan's win in 1984, the keys have never been wrong. And they are legendary in the world of political science.

Lichtman says the formula is so trusted that it convinced former president Bill Clinton to take the presidential plunge in 1992.

"They've never missed. They've been right seven elections in a row. A number that goes way beyond statistical significance in a record no other system even comes close to," Lichtman said last year.

Obama's lost three keys so far, but he'd have to lose six to be defeated in November, a highly unlikely scenario with one month to go.

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"The notion that an October surprise is going to turn things around is virtually precluded by the keys," Lichtman says.

Here's a rundown of Lichtman's keys predicting an Obama victory.

Where Obama Loses

  • Party mandate: After 87 freshman Republicans swept the House in 2010, the Democrats have fewer seats in the House of Representatives than they had in 2008. Obama loses big here.
  • Long term economy: Obama lost this key last fall and still hasn't won it back. Real per capita economic growth during this term still isn't equal to or better than the average growth during the two previous terms.
  • Incumbent Charisma: Lichtman says the message of "hope" and "change" isn't as intoxicating for voters as it was in 2008. Obama loses this key.
  • Where Obama Wins

    • Contest: No one stepped up to unseat Obama in the primary this year.
    • Incumbency: Spending four years in the White House can only be an advantage.
    • Third party: Despite their best efforts, Ron Paul's supporters couldn't convince the libertarian-leaning congressman to jump in the presidential race as an independent. Also, libertarian Gary Johnson hasn't broken through the poll threshold needed to deem him a significant threat. Obama wins this key.
    • Short-term economy: As long as the country stays out of a double-dip recession, Obama can claim this key as a victory. "The economy is not in recession," Lichtman says. "It may be in a unhappy recovery, but that is not the same as a recession."
    • Significant policy change: Obama won this key after he overhauled the country's healthcare system and implemented the largest stimulus in history.
    • Social unrest: Occupy Wall Street protests and the Tea Party movement don't count as signs of social unrest, Lichtman says. Obama picks up this key.
    • Scandal: Lichtman says Obama's presidency has been squeaky clean so far, with Solyndra and the "Fast and Furious" gun-running scandal not enough to disqualify him. "There is no whiff of a Watergate," Lichtman says.
    • Foreign/Military Success: Osama bin Laden is dead and the troops are out of Iraq, which is enough to keep Obama winning overseas.
    • Foreign/Military Failure: While Lichtman admits the death of an ambassador is never good for a president's re-election bid, it's no Bay of Pigs. "It is not big enough to be a foreign policy disaster, and it doesn't come close to past examples," Lichtman says. "Anything can still happen in foreign policy, but it would have to be huge to flip this key."
    • Challenger Charisma: While the keys no longer deem Obama as being charismatic, he still has his challenger beat in that department. "Mitt Romney? Are you joking? If you pick up the dictionary for uncharismatic, there is his picture."
    • We'll take that as another Obama win.

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      Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. She can be reached at lfox@usnews.com or you can follow her on Twitter @foxreports.