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Author Topic: The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency  (Read 5000 times)
RG Fritz
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« on: September 28, 2004, 12:32:56 am »
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http://hnn.us/articles/3999.html

Every pundit has their own idea of the factors that shape the outcome of American presidential elections.

Legendary journalist Teddy White argued that the quadrennial contests are decided by three issues, which he summed up in a series of memorable metaphors: bread and butter, black and white, war and peace.

Newsweek's Howard Fineman says that the conventional wisdom about general elections includes these two major assumptions: (1) "Democrats can't win unless a Southerner tops the ticket, and/or unless that ticket can win at least five Southern and border states" and (2) " Incumbent presidents lose if their job-performance numbers dip below 50 percent as the campaign season begins."

Presidential historian Alan Lichtman devised a more nuanced model that takes into account thirteen factors that hold the "key" to the incumbent party's ability to hang onto the White House. "When five or fewer statements are false," he argues, referring to the list provided below, "the incumbent party wins. When six or more are false, the challenging party wins. "

KEY 1 (Party Mandate): After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.

KEY 2 (Contest): There is no serious contest for the incumbent-party nomination.

KEY 3 (Incumbency): The incumbent-party candidate is the sitting president.

KEY 4 (Third party): There is no significant third-party or independent campaign.

KEY 5 (Short-term economy): The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

KEY 6 (Long-term economy): Real per-capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

KEY 7 (Policy change): The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

KEY 8 (Social unrest): There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

KEY 9 (Scandal): The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

KEY 10 (Foreign/military failure): The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

KEY 11 (Foreign/military success): The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

KEY 12 (Incumbent charisma): The incumbent-party candidate is charismatic or a national hero.

KEY 13 (Challenger charisma): The challenging-party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.



Other pundits, including historian Robert Ferrell, point to the importance of personality as a factor in American elections.

Finally, economists (naturally) focus on the state of ... the economy. Yale University economist Ray Fair argues that his economic model, which takes into account the economic growth rate in the first three quarters of the year in which the election is held, accurately predicts most elections.

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RG Fritz
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« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2004, 12:47:11 am »
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http://hnn.us/articles/3615.html

Related article....I edited in the key numbers to make this easier to discuss.

The Keys to the White House
By Allan Lichtman
Mr. Lichtman is a professor of history at American University and the author of The Keys to the White House (1996).


This article was published by TomPaine.com in 1999.

Forget the polls and the pundits. Political conditions now favor the victory of Vice President Al Gore over Texas Governor George W. Bush or any other Republican nominee for president in 2000. However, Democrats could still forfeit the election by worrying about meaningless polls and waging the kind of bloody nomination struggle that invariably has foretold defeat for Democrats seeking to retain the White House.

That is the verdict of the Keys to the White House, a prediction system based on a study of every U.S. presidential election since 1860. The choice of a president, history shows, does not turn on debates, advertising, speeches, endorsements, rallies, platforms, promises, or anything that is said or done during a campaign. Rather, presidential elections are referenda on the performance of the party holding the White House.

The Keys predicted well ahead of time the winners of every presidential election from 1984 through 1996. They called Vice President George Bush's victory in the spring of 1988 when he trailed Mike Dukakis by about the same margin that Gore now lags behind the younger Bush. The Vice President defied the polls in 1988, not because he suddenly discovered negative ads, but because voters ratified the performance of the Reagan administration.

Next year, the Democratic candidate for president will win or lose on the record of the Clinton administration. No party has ever retained the White House by running away from its incumbent president.

The Keys predict election results by assessing the performance and strength of the party holding the White House. There are thirteen of them. They take into account all the factors that decide elections from the obvious (how the economy is doing) to the more subtle (whether the party in power has achieved major policy change). If eight or more of the keys favor the candidate of the incumbent party, he wins. Any fewer, he loses. Currently, these seven keys favor the Democratic party.

Victories in U.S. House elections of 1996 and 1998 secures the party mandate key. (key 1)
Unless an unexpectedly strong insurgent candidate emerges -- who does not represent a split in the GOP -- the incumbent Democrats will hold the third-party key. (key 4)
Unless the robust economy collapses, Democrats will win the long-term key (growth during the term matches growth during the past two terms) and the election-year economy key.  (keys 5 and 6)
In the absence of sustained, violent upheavals like those of the 1960s, the incumbent party retains the social unrest key. (key 8)
The war in Yugoslavia averts loss of the foreign/military failure key. (key 10)
Despite leading the Republican field, George W. Bush doesn't match the charisma of Theodore Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, keeping Democrats from losing the challenger charisma/hero key.  (key 13)

The following five keys fall against the Democrats:
They lose the incumbent candidate key, with President Clinton ineligible to run again.  (key 3)
The stalemate between Clinton and the Republican Congress topples the policy-change key, which the incumbents win only through historic changes like the New Deal or the Reagan Revolution. (key 7)
The Lewinsky fiasco costs Democrats the scandal key.  (key 9)
Despite escaping humiliation in Yugoslavia, the administration still lacks the grand triumph needed to earn the foreign/military success key. (key 11)
Neither Al Gore nor former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley has the magic to win the incumbent charisma/hero key. (key 12)
 
Thus, the outcome of election 2000 turns on the thirteenth key.  (key 2) This is the still undecided incumbent party contest key, which falls unless the nominee of the incumbent party controls at least two-thirds of Convention delegates. Since 1860, this key has been the best single predictor of victory or defeat for incumbent Democratic administrations.
In seven of eight elections in which incumbent Democrats won the contest key, they kept control of the White House. The only exception came in 1888 when President Grover Cleveland captured the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College.

By contrast, all six times that the incumbent Democrats lost this key, they lost the White House as well. In 1860, pro-slavery southern states bolted the party and Democrats held two conventions before nominating Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, who lost to Abraham Lincoln.

In 1896, Nebraska Congressman William Jennings Bryan won a fifth ballot nomination after his stirring "Cross of Gold" Convention speech. But he couldn't overcome the burden of the "Democratic depression" of the 1890s and lost to William McKinley.

In 1920, after Woodrow Wilson's two terms, Democrats nominated Ohio Governor James Cox after forty-four ballots. Cox lost to Warren Harding in the worst beating ever suffered by an incumbent party candidate. In 1952, party pros rejected the rank-and-file favorite, Tennessee Senator Estes Kefauver, and gave a third-ballot nomination to Illinois Governor Adlai Stevenson, who lost to war hero Dwight Eisenhower.

In 1968, the Vietnam War and the assassination of Robert Kennedy splintered the Democratic party. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, nominated in the divisive Chicago Convention, lost a close contest to Richard Nixon. In 1980, President Jimmy Carter withstood a challenge from his left by Senator Edward Kennedy, but lost badly to conservative Republican Ronald Reagan.

Barring surprises such as an economic collapse on the negative side or major policy change on the positive side, Democrats will win in 2000 if and only if they unite around a single presidential candidate. Otherwise, Republicans will win the presidency, likely retain both houses of Congress, and make several Supreme Court appointments, thereby controlling all branches of national government for the first time since the 1920s.

« Last Edit: September 28, 2004, 04:46:21 am by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2004, 01:19:07 am »
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Newsweek's Howard Fineman says that the conventional wisdom...

Having "wisdom" in the same sentence as "Howard Fineman" without using the word "lacks" is simply asking for trouble!
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2004, 01:26:23 am »
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So, lets evaluate....

Key 1: I need data, but I think thats true
Key 2: True
Key 3: True
Key 4: True
Key 5: Arguable, lean true
Key 6: I need data, but I think thats false
Key 7: Arguable, lean false
Key 8: Arguable, lean false
Key 9: True
Key 10: False, in my opinion
Key 11: True, in my opinion
Key 12: False, in my opinion
Key 13: True, in my opinion

So by my analysis here, Bush hold 8 of the 13 keys.
Please, fellow Democrats, show me that some of these "trues" are really "falses"!
« Last Edit: September 28, 2004, 01:37:03 am by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #4 on: September 28, 2004, 02:02:14 am »
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So, lets evaluate....

Key 1: I need data, but I think thats true
Key 2: True
Key 3: True
Key 4: True
Key 5: Arguable, lean true
Key 6: I need data, but I think thats false
Key 7: Arguable, lean false
Key 8: Arguable, lean false
Key 9: True
Key 10: False, in my opinion
Key 11: True, in my opinion
Key 12: False, in my opinion
Key 13: True, in my opinion

So by my analysis here, Bush hold 8 of the 13 keys.
Please, fellow Democrats, show me that some of these "trues" are really "falses"!

1. True
2. True
3. True
4. True, pretty much
5. Recession as technically defined yes, in good shape jobs wise, no
6. False, jobs, real wages, and Dow Jones are all down
7. True
8.  Large protests
9. False, WMD, Valerie Plame, fiscal policy lies, other lies, Halliburton, the list goes on and on
10.  False, we attacked one of the few countries in the middle east without Al Qaeda operations (source: State Dept. Nov 2001), and turned it into a terrorist haven
11. I guess true
12. False
13. True
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #5 on: September 28, 2004, 03:43:12 am »
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Well jfern, you come up with the same number I do- 8 true, and 5 false.  According to the article, this is just the number Bush needs to win.  If Kerry can get 6 falses, he wins.

I was counting key 5 as true in your viewpoint, though you did qualify it.

We disagreed on 7 and 9.  Key 7 you say is true.  I said this at first, then changed to lean false, because of this snip from the second article I posted (which is an analysis of these keys for 2000):

The stalemate between Clinton and the Republican Congress topples the policy-change key, which the incumbents win only through historic changes like the New Deal or the Reagan Revolution.

I don't think Bush has affected policy change with that kind of historical significance.

Key 9, I said was true, you said was false.  This is the scandal key.  At least compared to Clinton I think its true, but you bring up some good points.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2004, 03:46:11 am by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #6 on: September 28, 2004, 03:52:31 am »
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Here's 2000
1. True
2. True, pretty much
3. False
4. True
5. True
6. True
7. True
8. True
9. Debateable, nothing really MAJOR
10. True
11. False, unless you count Serbia
12. False
13. True

Gore had at least 9
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #7 on: September 28, 2004, 04:10:08 am »
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If you examine the second article (written in 1999), they were counting 3, 7, 9, 11, and 12 as false, the rest true except for 2, which they say was the critical key the Democrat (Gore or Bradley) needed to win.  Go read the article, I'm not sure tht Gore had the delegate count he needed to win number 2.  As for key 7, the snippet I posted in my previous post explains why the Democrats didn't get that one in 2000 (and why I don't think Bush has it this year).  They pretty much agreed with you on the rest.

Key 9, scandals- thats DEBATABLE?  Nothing MAJOR?  Clinton was impeaced, thats pretty major.
« Last Edit: September 28, 2004, 04:15:49 am by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #8 on: September 28, 2004, 05:07:03 pm »
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The Bush administration has DEFINITELY been hit by scandal.  If nothing else, Abu Grab (can't spell it) was significant.  Throw in Val Plame and WMD confusions and you get a genuine scandal qualification.

Also, you can't really claim a significant military victory.  Afghanistan is still in a state of flux (and really was a failure as we failed to capture Bin Laden) and Iraq is a rapidly deteriorating situation.
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #9 on: September 29, 2004, 02:19:44 am »
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Okay, so Wakie agrees with jfern that key 9 is false for Bush.

Regarding your point about military victory, I think Bush qualifies for earning key 11.  The issues you brought up are handled by NOT giving him key 10- he has had military failures as well as military victories.

Revised analysis of Bush's keys:

1 (party mandate): true
2 (contest): true
3 (incumbency): true
4 (third party): true
5 (short term economy): true
6 (long term economy): false
7 (policy change): false
8 (social unrest): false
9 (scandal): false
10 (foriegn/military failure): false
11 (foriegn/military success): true
12 (incumbent charisma): false
13 (challenger charisma): true

Total = 7 true, 6 false = KERRY WILL WIN! Grin;D;D

Thank you for changing my mind about the scandal key.  Whew, I feel much better now.

This is interesting, eh?   Lets get some more discussion here.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2004, 02:21:33 am by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #10 on: September 29, 2004, 02:31:15 pm »
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I've been following the Keys since the book came out in 1988. In fact, the forum I frequented before I started posting here was devoted exclusively to the Keys. Unfortunately the forum disbanded this spring, but I can tell you the following based on quotes from Lichtman and other experts for 2004.

Plusses are for the incumbent party, 0 against.

1. MAN +
2. CON +
3. INC +
4. 3RD + (n.b. no incumbent party has lost holding the first four 'political' keys.)
5. STE + (This key is set based on 1 st and 2nd quater GDP)
6. LTE 0
7. POL 0 (In Lichtman's opinion 8/04. There are also three historical examples that would lead one to the conclusion that the war on terror, unilateralism, and Dept Hom Sec equal 1896-1900, 1936-1944, or 1948-1952. All those were + for the incumbent)
8. UNR + (The standard must exist in the election year and equal the riots of 1968, Rodney King riots aren't enough. A terrorist attack on the US could flip this, but at this stage nothing else will suffice.)
9. SCA + (The scandal must directly be linked to the president for this key to topple. Even liberal experts agreed that it was close but not at the strict level needed for the Keys.)
10. FMF 0 (Happened on 9/11. Only one event is needed)
11. FMS + (Afganistan and the fall of Baghdad both count.)
12. ICH 0
13. CCH +

Net result 4 against  by Lichtman, 3 against if policy is compared to McKinley or Truman.
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #11 on: September 29, 2004, 02:53:22 pm »
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Thanks for this information, Muon2.  You've just deflated me again.  Sad

So, your experts are saying the social unrest and scandal during the Bush administration are insufficient for them to lose those keys.

Do you know of any links where all this is spelled out?  The links I got that I started this with came to me in an e-mail.
« Last Edit: September 29, 2004, 02:57:00 pm by Fritz »Logged

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« Reply #12 on: September 29, 2004, 02:59:37 pm »
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I guess I need some clarification, having never read the book. The way I read many of the Keys, is that they seem to refer to a specific incumbent candidate, not simply to the incumbent party. Keys 7, 9, 10 and 11 specifically.

Read this way, I come up with the following:

2000

1. T
2. T
3. F
4. F
5. T
6. T
7. F (no inc admin)
8. T
9. F (no inc admin)
10. F (")
11. F (")
12. F
13. F

9 False, 4 True...which elects Bush in 2000

2004

1. T
2. T
3. T
4. F
5. T
6. F
7. T
8. F
9. T
10. F
11. T
12. T
13. F
 5 False, 8 True...Bush wins.
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #13 on: September 29, 2004, 03:21:12 pm »
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Bogart, regarding your 2000:

4- there was a serious third party campaign?  Surely you don't mean Nader?
10- According to the second article I posted here, "the war in  Yugoslavia avert loss of the foriegn/military failure key".
13- comon, Bush is NOT "charismatic or a national hero".

The actual totals for what you gave is 8 false, 5 true (you counted wrong).  Changing the 3 I pointed out here, it ends up as 5 false, 8 true, which elects Gore.

The one I'm still not sure about it 2000 is #2.  The article in the second post argues that that is the one they need.  But if the Democrats did hold key 2 in 2000, leading to a conclusion that Gore should have won, it does not invalidate this theory, because Gore actually did win the popular vote.  So the Keys predicted the PV winner, not the EV winner.

Regarding 2004, I think Muon2 explained it pretty well, maybe he cna respond where you differ.
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RG Fritz
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« Reply #14 on: September 29, 2004, 06:26:17 pm »
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I did a little bit of research on the net regarding this whole subject.  Here's what I found out:

-The Keys did in fact predict a Gore win in 2000.  This system did not fail, because it predicts the popular vote winner, not the electoral college winner.  The Keys also correctly indicated the popular vote winners in 1876 and 1888, which like 2000 saw the popular vote winner lose in the electoral college.

-The Keys are predicting a Bush win this year, with 9 keys in his favor (as spelled out by Muon2).  
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« Reply #15 on: September 29, 2004, 07:10:26 pm »
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Kerry will win [Massachusetts].
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« Reply #16 on: September 30, 2004, 08:58:28 am »
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I count 4 keys against Bush, with both foreign policy ones, scandal and economic growth. Social unrest is disputable.
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« Reply #17 on: September 30, 2004, 02:29:58 pm »
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Bogart, regarding your 2000:

4- there was a serious third party campaign?  Surely you don't mean Nader?
10- According to the second article I posted here, "the war in  Yugoslavia avert loss of the foriegn/military failure key".
13- comon, Bush is NOT "charismatic or a national hero".

The actual totals for what you gave is 8 false, 5 true (you counted wrong).  Changing the 3 I pointed out here, it ends up as 5 false, 8 true, which elects Gore.

The one I'm still not sure about it 2000 is #2.  The article in the second post argues that that is the one they need.  But if the Democrats did hold key 2 in 2000, leading to a conclusion that Gore should have won, it does not invalidate this theory, because Gore actually did win the popular vote.  So the Keys predicted the PV winner, not the EV winner.

Regarding 2004, I think Muon2 explained it pretty well, maybe he cna respond where you differ.

Sorry, I counted wrong.  Bush still wins.

As to the third party Key, yes, I mean Nader. Seems pretty clear that he stole enough votes from Gore to put Bush over the top in a couple of states. This would have been enough to elect Gore despite Florida.

I consider Bush holding the "charismatic" Key. While it is largely in the eye of the beholder, I think he scores well enough on this category to give him the Key. Consider he stood on the rubble of 9/11 with Guiliani and all that. One could easily argue that Kerry is not really a "hero" in the conventional sense, while some would point to his being wounded in Vietnam to prove that he is. Even so, I gave this one to Kerry.

Finally, as I said, I perhaps don't understand this fully. I was just putting out a way for the Keys to have predicted 2000 sucessfully based upon one interpretation.
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« Reply #18 on: September 30, 2004, 11:26:09 pm »
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Bogart, regarding your 2000:

4- there was a serious third party campaign?  Surely you don't mean Nader?
10- According to the second article I posted here, "the war in  Yugoslavia avert loss of the foriegn/military failure key".
13- comon, Bush is NOT "charismatic or a national hero".

The actual totals for what you gave is 8 false, 5 true (you counted wrong).  Changing the 3 I pointed out here, it ends up as 5 false, 8 true, which elects Gore.

The one I'm still not sure about it 2000 is #2.  The article in the second post argues that that is the one they need.  But if the Democrats did hold key 2 in 2000, leading to a conclusion that Gore should have won, it does not invalidate this theory, because Gore actually did win the popular vote.  So the Keys predicted the PV winner, not the EV winner.

Regarding 2004, I think Muon2 explained it pretty well, maybe he cna respond where you differ.

Sorry, I counted wrong.  Bush still wins.

As to the third party Key, yes, I mean Nader. Seems pretty clear that he stole enough votes from Gore to put Bush over the top in a couple of states. This would have been enough to elect Gore despite Florida.

I consider Bush holding the "charismatic" Key. While it is largely in the eye of the beholder, I think he scores well enough on this category to give him the Key. Consider he stood on the rubble of 9/11 with Guiliani and all that. One could easily argue that Kerry is not really a "hero" in the conventional sense, while some would point to his being wounded in Vietnam to prove that he is. Even so, I gave this one to Kerry.

Finally, as I said, I perhaps don't understand this fully. I was just putting out a way for the Keys to have predicted 2000 sucessfully based upon one interpretation.
Fritz is correct that the keys only attempt to predict the popular vote winner. Not the margin, and not the EV winner. therfore it focusses on national rather that state effects. It also treats the election as one not only on the sitting president, but the incumbent president's party as a whole.

The Keys are designed with some pretty high thresholds. For instance the 3rd party key requires a third party to get 5% of the total popular vote. For a while in 2000 it looked like Nader might meet that threshold, and then the Keys would have predicted a Bush win, as probably would have happened if Nader did get 5%. No candidate will be close to that this year.

Scandal and Unrest also have very high standards to be met. For instance Iran-Contra did not make the standards for scandal, but Watergate and Clinton's impeachment did. Iraq is at most at the level of Iran-Contra, so it doesn't rise to the high level needed by the keys.

Unrest requires sustained national unrest unresolved during the election year. The social disruption of late 2001 with threats to air travel and mail were both causes of concern and could have triggered it then. However, The concern has abated insofar as it does not pose a great disruption of daily life. A comparable case was the 1972 election,where 1969 and 1970 saw severe unrest over Vietnam, but the protests had greatly subsided by 1972 and the Key was held by the incumbent.
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