Allan Lichtman: The Keys to the White House ... Why McCain Lost

Roundup: Historians' Take

There is no end of after-the-fact explanations for John McCain’s defeat in this presidential election.

As always, the Johnny-come-lately pundits can’t agree with one another. We’ve heard that McCain lost because he wasn’t conservative enough or because he was too conservative. We’ve heard that he lost because he picked the unqualified Sarah Palin as his running mate or because he didn’t let Palin be Palin in the campaign. We’ve heard that he lost because he futilely accused Barack Obama of associated with terrorists or because he didn’t devote enough time and energy to attacking Obama’s questionable associates. We’ve also heard that he was heading for victory until the economic meltdown of the past too months or that he never really had a chance to win the general election.

You should take all of these post-facto explanations and follow the philosopher David Hume’s recommendation for works of superstition: consign them to the flames.

As readers of this blog know, the defeat of the party holding the White House was predictable long before John McCain and Barack Obama were selected as their party’s nominees. See, Lichtman “The 13 Keys to the White House: Why the Democrats Will Win,” Britannica Blog, posted October 4th, 2007.

The Keys to the White House, a historically-based prediction system first pointed to the defeat of the incumbent Republicans in a paper presented at the conference of the International Institute of Forecasters in June of 2005 and in a paper published in the February 2006 edition of Foresight: The International Journal of Applied Forecasting. In a paper presented at the August 2007 conference of the American Political Science Association and a paper published in the Fall 2007 edition of Foresight, I used the Keys to predict that the Republican candidate would receive 46 percent of the two-party popular presidential vote. According to the latest count, McCain has netted 46.6 percent of the two-party vote.

The lesson of the keys is that the American voters are far smarter and more pragmatic than the pundits would have us believe. The voters keep their eye on the big picture of presidential performance and vote out of office an incumbent party that fails to govern effectively. The failures of the Bush administration and the defeat of any Republican candidate for president were evident years before the either the nomination contests or the general elections campaigns began.

Read entire article at Britannica Blog

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