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Media critics have blasted reporters for focusing on the presidential horse race, not the issues. But the horse race is what makes politics fun. Cokie Roberts gets gazillions in speaking fees because she’s entertaining, not because she’s got a plan to slow entitlement spending. But Allan J. Lichtman has tried to add a patina of academic rigor to punditry with his book, The Keys to the White House, 1996. The “keys” are 13 true-false conditions that he says can predict any presidential race. But Lichtman’s work is simply McLaughlin-style predictioneering dressed up as academics. A historian by trade, he dismisses the truly rugged statistical work that political scientists (particularly Yale professor Stephen Rosenstone, who isn’t mentioned here) have applied to predicting outcomes. Lichtman says such “economic models” don’t “include a sufficient range of noneconomic factors to avoid serious error.” But Lichtman chooses laughably uncertain noneconomic factors—like whether the candidates have “charisma”—just so he can look back on history and say his “keys” would have forecast every outcome. In the book, he foresees a Clinton victory—not a challenge when the president has led polls all year. Meet Lichtman at 7:30 p.m. at Borders, 11301 Rockville Pike, Rockville. FREE. (301) 816-1067. (John Cloud)