WASHINGTON - US HISTORY professor Allan Lichtman believes he has the secret to predicting who will win the vote in any US presidential election and he has the record since 1984 to prove it.
'The 13 Keys to the White House' - a system he developed 27 years ago with mathematician Volodia Keilis-Borok - has proven right in every White House race since then, he told AFP.
The '13 keys' are a set of variables which will tell whether the presidency will change party hands in the quadrennial contest, which takes place this year on November 4.
The true-or-false statements assess the conditions facing the incumbent party - this year President George W. Bush's Republicans - on issues such as the candidate's standing, the party's legislative power, security and the economy, and the level of charisma of the two major party candidates.
Using these metrics, Dr Lichtman, who lectures on the history of US presidential elections at American University in Washington, called the 2008 race two and a half years ago.
Before Mr Barack Obama was even in the running, he told Foresight magazine in February 2006 that the Democrats would retake the White House.
'I could see the winds of change were blowing, based on the keys,' he said.
'Long before the nomination contest unfolded, the Democrats could take a name out of a phone book and still win.' For the party holding the presidency to lose it, Dr Lichtman says, six or more of the 13 keys have to be false.
In early 2006, Mr Bush and the Republicans had eight falses. Today, Dr Lichtman said, there are 'at least' eight falses. To him, Republican candidate Senator John McCain hasn't had a chance since as far back as 2005.
The keys give no weight to the candidate's vice-presidential running mate, how his wife looks, or how the campaign goes.
'The basic theory behind the whole system is that American elections are basically a verdict on the performance of the party holding the White House,' Dr Lichtman said.
'The basic thesis is it is governing, not campaigning, that counts. It's why you can make these predictions before you even know who the nominees are.'
For the outgoing Bush administration, Dr Lichtman counts nine false keys spelling failure on November 4 for the Republicans:
1: After midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. False.
2: There was no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination. True.
3: The incumbent party candidate is the current president. False.
4: There is no significant third-party or independent campaign. True.
5: The economy is not in recession during the campaign: Technically true, but Dr Lichtman counts this as a false because of the deep financial crisis.
6: Real per-capita economic growth during the current president's term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. False.
7: The incumbent government brings about major changes in national policy that improve the people's lives. False.
8: There is no sustained social unrest during the term. True.
9: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal. True.
10: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs. False.
11: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs. False.
12: The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. False - Dr Lichtman says 'John McCain... is a national hero in the sense he performed heroically in a war, but to win that key you have to be a leader in war like (1953-61 president Dwight) Eisenhower.'
13: The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero. False.
Dr Lichtman acknowledges that as an African-American, Mr Obama's candidacy is 'an unprecedented situation' in US presidential showdowns.
However, he said, 2008 will resemble 1980. Under Democratic president Jimmy Carter, who lost the race to Mr Ronald Reagan, 'You had a bad economy, difficulties in foreign affairs, with Iran hostages crisis, the invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviets, the boycott of the Olympics.
'The same thing with Bush. You have a got a bad economy and you have difficulties in foreign affairs with the ongoing, unresolved war.'
Using the 13 keys, he is also willing to predict the size of victory over Mr McCain. 'I predicted two and one-half years ago an eight-point margin. It could be pretty close (to that), maybe bigger.' -- AFP