Allan Lichtman: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Allan Lichtman

AFP via Getty Allan Lichtman, a professor famous for predicting the winner of presidential election, said Joe Biden would defeat President Trump in this year's election.

Allan Lichtman is a history professor who’s famous for co-developing the “Keys to the White House”, a system that has successfully predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984, including Donald Trump‘s victory in 2016.

In a New York Times video that was released on August 5, he made the prediction that Joe Biden would defeat President Trump in what would be a close contest.

“The keys predict that Trump will lose the White House,” he said in the video. However, he pointed out that there were still “forces at play outside the keys,” citing voter suppression and foreign interference.

He Predicted a Trump Win in 2016. What's His Forecast For 2020? | NYT OpinionRight now, polls say Joe Biden has a healthy lead over President Trump. But we’ve been here before (cue 2016), and the polls were, frankly, wrong. One man, however, was not. The historian Allan Lichtman was the lonely forecaster who predicted Mr. Trump’s victory in 2016 — and also prophesied the president would be impeached.…2020-08-05T17:00:09Z

Despite his prediction, Lichtman said it was up to the voters to “decide the future of our democracy.” “So, get out and vote. Vote in person. Vote by mail,” he said in the video.

Here’s what you need to know:

1. Lichtman Has Taught History at American University For Almost 50 Years & Is Active Outside of Classroom

Allan Lichtman

Allan Lichtman has been teaching history at American University since 1973.

Lichtman graduated Magna Cum Laude from Brandeis University with a bachelor’s degree in American history in 1967 and received his Ph.D. from Harvard University six years later, his CV shows.

After graduating from Harvard with a specialty in modern American history and quantitative methods in 1973, he joined American University in Washington D.C. and started to work as an assistant professor, according to his bio on the university’s website. He was promoted to full professor in 1980.

Lichtman, now the Distinguished Professor of History at the university, has an overall rating of 3.3/5.0 on RateMyProfessors. Besides teaching for almost 50 years, he’s also very active outside of the classroom. He’s a columnist and commentator and has appeared on many TV shows. 

Lichtman is a former steeplechase champion, winning the national title of a 3000-meter steeplechase race of his age group in 1979, as well as the title of an eastern region 1500-meter race, according to his CV. “It’s a race designed for horses, but run by people,” he said in the Times video.

In 1981, he defeated 20 people on the quiz show Tic Tac Dough. He had a 16 show winning streak and won four cars, Litchman said in the video.

2. Lichtman Has Accurately Predicted The Winner of Every Presidential Election Since 1984

Allan Lichtman

AFP via GettyLichtman co-developed the “Keys to the White House” in 1981 and has used it to accurately call U.S. presidential elections.

Lichtman is best known for his success in predicting the result of the presidential election in the U.S. In 1981, he worked with Russian mathematical geophysicist and seismologist Vladimir Keilis-Borok and created a system, known as the “Keys to the White House” or simply “13 Keys,” to predict the winner of the American presidential campaign, New York Times reported.

Unlike prediction models designed by political scientists, Lichtman’s system studies the past and makes predictions that are based on “the theory of pragmatic voting,” according to PollyVote. And that means voters cast their vote according to the performance of the governing party.

He and Keilis-Borok looked at presidential elections from 1860 to 1980 and compared the power dynamics between the party in control of the White House and the challenging party. They found 13 factors, which they call ‘keys,” that are crucial to voters’ decision-making, but only two of them are related to the “traits of the candidates,” according to the New York Times video.

Allan Lichtman

PollyVoteOnly two of the 13 “keys” are related to the traits of the candidates.

“The pollsters and the pundits cover elections as though they were horse races. 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,” Lichtman said in the video.

Using this model, Lichtman has successfully predicted the outcome of every presidential election since 1984, according to CBS News. He was also one of the few people who predicted Trump’s victory in 2016 when polls and pundits “overwhelmingly” thought Hillary Clinton would win, New York Times said.

After he won the election, Trump sent Lichtman a “big, sharpie letter” with a handwritten note that said, “Professor–congrats–good call,” Lichtman said in the Times video.

Lichtman also predicted President Trump’s impeachment shortly after he was elected in 2016, according to CNN.

3. Lichtman Mortgaged His House to Run For Senate in 2006

Allan Lichtman

GettyLichtman (left) ran for Senate as a Democratic in 2006.

Lichtman ran for a Democratic Senate seat in Maryland in 2006, aiming to fill the spot that would be left by Paul Sarbanes after he retired.

“Today, there is too much government intruding in our private lives, and too little government meeting our needs,” he said in his campaign ad.

The Democratic Senate candidate described himself as an unconventional politician that would “make a big splash” and bring real changes. He even jumped into the water in his campaign video, suggesting that he was not the kind of politician that was like a pebble on a pond that would only bring “a little bit of a ripple.”

He told the Connection News in 2006 that in Maryland, political dynasties had fallen and people were “yearning for a different kind of candidate,” the reason why he thought he would win. Lichtman also said he was determined to reverse corruption in Washington and would not take anything from lobbyists if he was elected.

He raised more than $435,000 for his campaign, according to Open Secrets. He mortgaged his home in West Bethesda, seeding his campaign $250,000, which he was still paying off in 2012, the Washington Post reported.

Lichtman was endorsed by politicians including George McGovern, Ray Mabus, and John Anderson, according to Capital News Service. However, he only came in sixth in the election with less than 7,000 votes, election results show.

4. Lichtman Was Arrested at a Senate Debate After Protesting & Refusing to Leave in Front of a TV Studio in Maryland

Allan Lichtman

GettyLichtman and his wife were arrested after they protested against Lichtman’s exclusion from a Senate debate in 2006.

On August 31, 2006, Lichtman was arrested after he refused to leave Maryland Public Television’s studios in Owings Mills, where the only live televised Senate debate for candidates in Maryland would be held, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Lichtman, who was excluded from the debate because of his low poll numbers, was protesting against what he called was the “exclusionary” behavior of the League of Women Voters of Maryland. He held a press conference with two other candidates who were also barred from participating in the debate, the Baltimore Sun reported.

“The goal should be to fully inform the voters – not predict who’s going to win,” Lichtman said. “To be so exclusionary in this debate is really a disservice to Maryland.”

Lu Pierson, president of the League of Women Voters of Maryland, said the inclusion criteria were set a year before the debate and that it was not favoring any candidate, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Lichtman protested at the TV studios and refused to leave when the police asked him to. He was then arrested, along with his wife Karyn Strickler. They were charged with “trespassing on public property during hours, disturbing the peace by making a loud noise and disobeying a police officer,” the Baltimore Sun reported. The couple was acquitted of all charges later that year.

5. Lichtman’s Wife Is a Political Activist & The Couple Has Been Married For Almost 30 Years

In 1991, Lichtman married Karyn Strickler, who the Bethesda Magazine said was a “like-minded political junkie.” She’s the president and founder of Vote Climate U.S. PAC., a political action group focusing on environmental issues.

Strickler holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and government from McDaniel College, and was a member of Pi Gamma Mu, an international social science honor society, her LinkedIn page shows. She’s also an ironman triathlon athlete and is an “age group champion”, according to her bio.

Strickler once interviewed her husband on a TV show about the fossil fuel economy.  She was also the former host and producer of a climate change program at MMCTV.

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