13 Keys to the White House
I know, I know – the 2024 US election is still far away. But is it ever too early to start making guesses? We’ve already looked at the potential frontrunners in the Republican primary, but what will happen when the Democrats and Republicans lock horns in the November general election? It is too early to base this off specific candidates, so let’s instead look to Allan Lichtman’s theory of predicting election winners, which hasn’t failed him for decades. Here, he identifies 13 Keys to the White House, created with the support of a seismologist to determine if a political earthquake (a change in party) will occur. Today, we’ll be looking at whether we’ll see one of these earthquakes, or if the world of politics will remain stable heading into 2025…
First, though, let’s clarify: any of the factors that point towards a victory for the Democrats count as ‘stability’, whereas anything suggesting a victory for the Republicans will go down as an ‘Earthquake’. The factors themselves refer to an ‘incumbent’ – in this case, Democratic President Joe Biden. To win: the Republicans don’t even need a majority – rather 6 keys pointing towards an earthquake will do the trick.
1. Midterm Gains – did the Democrats gain seats in the House in the midterm elections? The Democrats lost their majority in the House of Representatives last year, so failed to be successful. This points towards an EARTHQUAKE.
2. Primary Contest – did the Democrats have a competitive primary? Author Marianne Williamson is all but set to launch a challenge against Joe Biden in the primary, but much like her 2020 campaign I can’t see much emerging from it: I expect Biden to win easily. This points towards STABILITY.
3. Incumbent Seeking Reelection – is the current Democratic President running again? As said above, I expect Biden will run again (and win his primary) making him the oldest Presidential candidate throughout the US’ history. Nonetheless, this points towards STABILITY.
4. Third Parties – is there a significant third party running for President? Kanye West may be running as an independent, but he can’t realistically make a strong campaign. It would be a big surprise if a competitive third-party candidate emerged now. This points towards STABILITY.
5. The Short-term Economy – is the economy in a recession? This is harder to predict ahead of time, but forecasts suggest that the US economy will enter a recession at some point this year, and that it could continue through to the fall of 2024 – a big loss for Biden. This points towards an EARTHQUAKE.
6. The Long-term Economy – does GDP per capita growth exceed that of the prior two Presidential terms’ average? In Obama’s second term the US GDP per Capita grew 8.59%, and in Trump’s only term it rose 6.05%, averaging out to 7.32%. Under Biden so far, it has grown 7.02%. Not only is Biden slightly behind, but his term so far has been dominated by inflation so a recession is inevitable – this points towards an EARTHQUAKE.
7. Major Policy Change – has Biden made a major national policy change? Biden entered the office of a (literally) plagued country – and his $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan helped Americans survive the pandemic. He’s also undone many of Trump’s more ludicrous policies, like funding for a wall on the southern border – this point towards STABILITY.
8. Major Social Unrest – has there been sustained social unrest under Biden? It takes something on the scale of the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 to count here – a multi-city incident with tens of millions of participants. That simply hasn’t occurred under Biden, pointing towards STABILITY.
9. Major Scandal – has there been a major scandal tainting Biden? Biden’s track record hasn’t been spotless, but despite the efforts of some hard-line Republicans, he hasn’t been impeached yet and it appears he won’t be in the next 18 months – pointing towards STABILITY.
10. Foreign/Military Failure – has there been a major military or foreign failure under Biden? The US’ withdrawal from Afghanistan was spectacularly bad, drawing comparisons to the rushed evacuation from Saigon in the Vietnam War. This won’t reflect well on Biden – pointing towards an EARTHQUAKE.
11. Foreign/Military Success – has there been a major military or foreign success under Biden? This is arguably the hardest one to predict right now, courtesy of Putin’s everchanging efforts. If Ukraine wins before the next election, Biden and his G7 counterparts will take a lot of the credit helping his re-election efforts. But, even if it’s just my cynicism, I struggle to see the Russo-Ukrainian war ending anytime soon, so doubt that Biden will be able to put this down as a victory in 2024. This points towards an EARTHQUAKE.
12. Charismatic Incumbent – is Biden a uniquely charismatic candidate or a national hero? It takes the likes of Eisenhower’s heroics as an Allied leader in WW2, or Obama’s never-before-seen ability to engage an audience, to qualify for this category. It’s fortunate for Biden that there’s no negative points here because he represents the antithesis. This points towards an EARTHQUAKE.
13. Charismatic Challenger – is the Republican candidate uniquely charismatic or a national hero? While we won’t know for a while who the Republican candidate will be, no one in the current pool is on this Eisenhower/Obama level, and it seems unlikely that anyone new will emerge. Some may think that Trump should qualify – but it’s worth remembering he repulses as many people as he attracts. This points towards STABILITY.
Overall, seven of the factors point towards a Democratic victory, and six factors point towards a Republican one. Despite Biden’s majority here, Lichtman’s theory indicates that only six of the factors must point towards an earthquake for it to occur. So, as of now, the Republicans appear set to take the White House. But that could all change: does the economy recover from a recession in time, if it goes into one at all? Do the Ukrainians win? Or do things go catastrophically wrong for Biden? It all remains up in the air…