- The Washington Times - Monday, September 3, 2012

There are still two months until the presidential election, but Allan J. Lichtman says he is pretty sure who is going to win.

Mr. Lichtman, a history professor at American University, has developed a model that predicts the outcome of any presidential race by looking at the candidates’ standing with respect to 13 key political factors. He debuted the model in 1980 — using data from the 1860 to 1976 elections — and says it has correctly forecast every winner since then, and that it sees a surprisingly comfortable victory this fall for President Obama.

“It should not be a close election,” said Mr. Lichtman, whose 13 keys include such factors as incumbency, foreign affairs success, previous midterm election results and charisma. “He should win pretty clearly.”

Other political scientists — who spent years perfecting their own models — would disagree, but Mr. Obama does seem to have a slight edge in the minds of academic prognosticators who say his incumbency is a key advantage.

“It is very difficult to unseat a president who is running for re-election in the first term of his party’s reign in the White House,” said Alfred G. Cuzan, a professor of government at the University of West Florida. “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s difficult to unseat such a candidate.”

The president is hoping to avoid becoming just the fourth president in 80 years to lose his re-election bid but currently finds himself in a virtual dead heat in national polls with Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, according to a slew of recent polls.

Every four years, dozens of professors try to make sense of the presidential race by assessing factors ranging from the economic climate to global unrest to the existing balance of power between Democrats and Republicans, in an effort to project who will take the White House.

The website PollyVote.com, which keeps track of predictions in voter polls, expert analysis and various mathematical models, has combined that data to project that Mr. Obama will carry 51.5 percent of the popular vote this year, meaning a likely victory.

But there are also analysts picking Mr. Romney to win, including Mr. Cuzan. His fiscally based model forecasts that the president will lose because of increased spending during his term, the poor economic conditions during the past four years and the economy’s continued struggles in the months leading up to Election Day.

Mr. Cuzan acknowledged that the president should have a decided edge as an incumbent, as such candidates typically only lose in the face of severe economic troubles and when facing a dynamic, well-liked opponent such as Ronald Reagan in 1980 or Bill Clinton in 1992.

Mr. Obama “should have had an easy time, but the economy has been middling,” Mr. Cuzan said. “And on top of that, the expanded fiscal policy is not working well for him.”

While Mr. Lichtman is predicting a comfortable win for the president, most analysts say the race should be close and that popular vote could be decided by fewer than 2 percentage points.

Most expect the House to stay Republican with the GOP losing a small number of seats, but there is division in whether the GOP can gain four seats they would need to assure they win control of the Senate.

The Republicans hoped to sway voters into their favor during last week’s Republican National Convention, and Democrats will try to do the same at their convention this week.

However, Mr. Lichtman said that despite the furious campaigning that is sure to come from now until November, elections are seldom decided by events and campaign strategies in the final months and are more a reaction to circumstances over the past several years.

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