LITERARY LIFE: Former DDN columnist updates book on political “keys”

Campaigns Don t Count: How the Media Get American Politics All Wrong by Martin Gottlieb

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Campaigns Don t Count: How the Media Get American Politics All Wrong by Martin Gottlieb

Allan Lichtman isn’t quite a household name, but his fame got a boost in the 2016 presidential election when he predicted that then-presidential candidate Donald Trump would win the popular vote and the electoral vote.

Lichtman was among the few to make such a prediction, going against the grain of more well-known prognosticators, such as Nate Silver.

Though Lichtman was incorrect about the popular vote result, he was correct about the electoral vote.

And that’s when many news outlets began giving more attention to Lichtman. How could he have known?

It turns out that Lichtman, a history professor at American University in Washington, D.C., who developed a model for predicting U.S. Presidential election outcomes, has correctly called the presidential winner since 1984. Lichtman’s “Keys” system, outlined in his books “The Thirteen Keys to the Presidency” and “The Keys to the White House,” uses 13 historical factors to predict whether the popular vote will be won by the candidate of the party holding the presidency.

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Martin Gottlieb, who wrote for the Dayton Daily News editorial page for 27 years until retiring in 2011, became fascinated with Lichtman’s system in 1986.

“Lichtman applied his system to predict the outcome of the 1986 senatorial races,” Gottlieb explains. “I was fascinated by his success and had never observed anyone so successfully predict a political race. I think the difference for Lichtman is that most people see prediction as a game, relying on polls and analyzing the ground game of elections. Lichtman, however, uses prediction as a measure of insight into what is actually happening in our culture and political climate.”

Gottlieb covered many political topics for the Dayton Daily News, with his columns on national affairs appearing in newspapers across the country. He began covering Lichtman as well.

Now, Gottlieb offers his own analysis of Lichtman’s “keys” and why they work in his book “Campaigns Don’t Count: How the Media Get American Politics All Wrong.” Martin first published his book in 2006. He released a new version, updated to include chapters on the 2008, 2012, and 2016 presidential elections, spring of 2017.

Whenever he spoke with Lichtman, Gottlieb says, “I found him to be responsive, interesting, intense and articulate. But I don’t write about him too much as a person. I don’t want to make him seem godlike in his prediction success. The system is what fascinates me. Anyone can operate it.”

Though Gottlieb says his target audience is other journalists and those who are “political junkies,” he believes his book is important for general readers as well, because, Gottlieb says, “we’re all overly-inundated with media interpretations of American politics, and a focus on campaigns and the money that drives them. Lichtman’s keys cut through all of that to give a perspective on how voters feel about how the country and its leadership are doing.”

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