Obama, says a previously prescient professor, already holds the keys to another four years in the White House.
American University history professor Allan Lichtman said Monday that according to his "13 Keys" formula, which predicts popular vote based on party performance instead of polls or campaign tactics, Obama is headed for a second term.
In an interview with AOL News, Lichtman said he devised his formula after studying election outcomes from 1860 to 1980 and has correctly predicted the outcomes of the last seven presidential contests. "No other system has come close to that record," he said.
"Politicians hate the keys because you can't manipulate them," Lichtman said. "It's not campaigning that counts. It's governing that counts."
Using the formula he laid out in his book, "Keys to the White House," Lichtman bases his prediction on 13 conditions, or keys. When five or fewer are false, the incumbent party candidate wins. When six or more are false, the other party candidate wins.
Lichtman considers passage of health care reform a positive key for Democrats, one of nine he said that favor the incumbent party and its president. He said Obama has four keys turned against him, two short of the "fatal six negative keys" that would doom a second term. In his rating, he assumes Democrats will lose seats in Congress this fall, the economy will remain sluggish and there will be no cataclysmic setbacks in Afghanistan.
Here's how Lichtman breaks down the keys to Obama's political future:
• KEY 1: Party mandate. After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. (FALSE)
• KEY 2: Contest. There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination. (TRUE)
• KEY 3: Incumbency. The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president. (TRUE)
• KEY 4: Third party. There is no significant third-party or independent campaign. (TRUE)
• KEY 5: Short-term economy. The economy is not in recession during the election campaign. (TRUE)
• KEY 6: Long-term economy. Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. (FALSE)
• KEY 7: Policy change. The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy. (TRUE)
• KEY 8: Social unrest. There is no sustained social unrest during the term. (TRUE)
• KEY 9: Scandal. The administration is untainted by major scandal. (TRUE)
• KEY 10: Foreign/military failure. The administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. (TRUE)
• KEY 11: Foreign/military success. The administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. (FALSE)
• KEY 12: Incumbent charisma. The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. (FALSE)
While much can happen between now and November 2012, Lichtman's track record indicates he could be on to something. In 2007, before either party chose its nominee, he predicted that Democrats would retake the White House no matter whom they chose as their candidate. In April 2003, he declared that George W. Bush would be re-elected.• KEY 13: Challenger charisma: The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. (TRUE)
Lichtman's system also predicted Al Gore's popular vote victory in 2000, Bill Clinton's win in 1996, George H.W. Bush's defeat in 1992, and the outcome of the 1988 presidential election when Democrat Michael Dukakis was leading Bush in the polls.
"The keys show that elections are not horse races in which candidates surge ahead or fall behind on the campaign trail, with pollsters keeping score," Lichtman said. "Rather, a pragmatic American electorate chooses a president according to the performance of the party holding the White House as measured by the consequential events and episodes of a term -- economic boom and bust, foreign policy successes and failures, social unrest, scandal and policy innovation."