COMMENTARY

And the winner of the 2012 presidential election is ...

Alan Balutis is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems' Internet Business Solutions Group.

For those who had grown weary of the Republican primaries, your pain came to an end when Rick Santorum suspended his campaign in April, clearing the path for Mitt Romney to take the GOP nomination. But there are still several months until Election Day in November.

For government groupies like me, this will be an exciting time. I love the strategizing, the ebb and flow of the polls, the debates, the conventions — all of it. But I realize that for others, the process brings to mind the words of Lt. Col. Bill Kilgore in the film “Apocalypse Now”: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

For many Americans, the road to the White House has already brought on political fatigue. How will they survive several more months of speeches, conventions and polls?

Last year, Allan Lichtman, a history professor at American University, predicted the outcome of the presidential election based on his 13 keys. His model has correctly predicted the popular vote outcome of every U.S. presidential election since 1984, including George H.W. Bush’s comeback from nearly 20 percent behind in the polls in 1988 and Al Gore’s narrow win — in the popular vote — in 2000.

Lichtman’s predictions are based on 13 questions, each with a true or false answer. True responses favor the incumbent party. If five or fewer answers are false, the incumbent party retains the presidency. If six or more are false, the challenger wins.

Here are the 13 keys.

1. After the midterm election, the incumbent party holds more seats in the House than it did after the preceding midterm election.

2. The incumbent party's nominee gets at least two-thirds of the vote on the first ballot at the nominating convention.

3. The incumbent party's candidate is the sitting president.

4. There is no third-party or independent candidacy that wins at least 5 percent of the vote.

5. The economy is not in recession during the campaign.

6. Real (constant-dollar) per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth for the preceding two terms.

7. The administration achieves a major policy change during the term, on the order of the New Deal or the first-term Reagan Revolution.

8. There has been no major social unrest during the term, sufficient to cause deep concerns about the unraveling of society.

9. There is no broad recognition of a scandal that directly touches the president.

10. There has been no military or foreign policy failure during the term, substantial enough that it appears to undermine the United States' national interests significantly or threaten its standing in the world.

11. There has been a military or foreign policy success during the term substantial enough to advance America’s national interests or improve its standing in the world.

12. The incumbent party's candidate is charismatic or is a national hero.

13. The challenger is not charismatic and is not a national hero.

According to Lichtman, debates, advertising, convention hoopla, TV appearances, party platforms and campaign strategies “count for virtually nothing on Election Day.”

So who will win? Obviously, there is still time for the answers to some keys to change. The economy could worsen, major social unrest could erupt, and opportunities for military or foreign policy failures abound. But if no major changes happen before November, Lichtman's analysis shows that President Barack Obama’s re-election is nearly guaranteed.

Now you can take the next several months off and relax.

About the Author

Alan P. Balutis is senior director and distinguished fellow at Cisco Systems.

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