You Call This Expert Opinion?

Should I show any special respect or deference to American University Professor Allan Lichtman because he has correctly predicted the winner of every presidential election since 1984? Think about it. Who did you think was going to win the elections of 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 or 2012? Did you get any of those wrong?

I mean, there was a point in 1988 after the Democratic convention when Michael Dukakis had a solid polling lead, but by late September it was obvious he was going to lose. Going into election night in 1992 and 1996, I had no doubt that Clinton would win. I never had any doubts that Obama would win either. The only time I was wrong was in 2004, and I think the entire Republican establishment thought Bush had lost after the preliminary exit polls came out. And, in any case, I didn’t know who would win or have a strong opinion about who would win until I got swept up with enthusiasm on Election Day itself. As for 2000, I don’t even know what it means to have predicted the winner. Did Lichtman predict that Bush would lose the popular vote and get saved by a ballot design in Palm Beach County? It seems to me that if you predicted Bush would win, you were more wrong than right.

I really only see 2004 as an election where predicting Bush would win should earn you any analytical credit. Before that (and excluding 2000 for the aforementioned reasons), I think you have to go back to 1980 to find an election where it was difficult to foresee the winner more than a month out from the election.

So, we have a professor who claims to be eight for eight in predicting the outcome of our presidential elections and the average American probably has a record of seven for eight. It’s a small sample to begin with, and the deviation from the norm is doubly insignificant.

So, Lichtman says Trump will win.

I don’t think I owe his opinion any more deference than the man on the street.

If he had predicted in mid-September the winner of the last eight World Series, then I’d be impressed.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.