In this combination of file photos, former Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del., on March 12, 2020, left, and President Donald Trump speaks at the White House in Washington on April 5, 2020.
The historian who has correctly predicted every presidential election since 1984 – including President Donald Trump‘s win in 2016 – has announced his pick for 2020: Presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Allan Lichtman, an author and history professor at American University, revealed his prediction in an op-ed video for The New York Times published Wednesday.
Lichtman’s predictive method – which put him squarely within the minority of analysts who were right in calling Trump’s win – largely ignores the detailed cross-tab polling analyses and swing-state bean counting that are often prioritized in modern political punditry.
“The pollsters and the pundits cover elections as though they were horse races,” Lichtman said in the Times’ video. “But history tells us voters are not fooled by the tricks of the campaign. Voters vote pragmatically according to how well the party holding the White House has governed the country.”
Polls are “snapshots in time,” Lichtman said. “None of this in the end has any impact whatsoever on the outcome of a presidential election.”
Lichtman’s prediction model looks at 13 different categories, dubbed the “Keys to the White House,” that have more to do with the record of the incumbent party occupying the White House than the nominees themselves.
The Keys are presented as true/false statements, framed to favor a win for the incumbent party if true. But if six or more of the statements are false, the challenger – in this case, Biden – is predicted to win the election.
Lichtman’s verdict? “The Keys predict that Trump will lose the White House.”
Trump campaign communications director Tim Murtaugh pushed back on that prediction in a statement to CNBC.
“This is an election like no other in history and the choice couldn’t be more clear – between President Trump’s established record of accomplishment for all Americans and Joe Biden’s 47 years of failure and acquiescence to the extreme left,” Murtaugh said. “American voters will decide this election, not academics or professors.”
The model favors Biden on seven of the 13 prompts. They touch on issues such as which party has a mandate – Republicans lost House seats in the 2018 midterms – and the short-term and long-term economy under Trump.
“The [coronavirus] pandemic has pushed the economy into recession,” Lichtman says in the video.
Despite his impressive track record, Lichtman’s simple-seeming model has its skeptics. Nate Silver, the writer and analyst at FiveThirtyEight who was famously correct in predicting every state outcome in the 2012 election, wrote in 2011 that Lichtman’s results “should be taken with a grain of salt.”
Lichtman himself offers a note of caution in his video for the Times. “There are forces at play outside the keys,” he said, such as voter suppression and potential Russian election meddling.
The Trump and Biden campaigns did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.