I've been following American University Professor Allan Lichtman ever since I heard about the 13-key system he came up with in the 1980s for accurately predicting the outcome of presidential elections. Not only does his system correctly predict all the elections from 1860 to 1980, it has also accurately forecast all the elections that have happened since it was devised. (It even predicted Al Gore's popular-vote victory in 2000).
The system is based on 13 fundamentals that Lichtman claims invariably determine the outcome of presidential elections.
Did the incumbent party suffer major losses in the mid-term elections?Lichtman claims that if the answer to six or more of these questions is No, then the incumbent party loses. If five or fewer are false, the incumbent party wins.
Is the current party candidate the incumbent?
Does he/she face a primary challenge?
Is there a serious third-party candidate?
Is the economy in recession during election year?
Has there been long-term economic growth over the course of the first term?
Is there major social unrest in the country?
Has the incumbent party been involved in a major scandal?
Has the party in the White House implemented major policy change?
Has the party suffered a serious foreign policy failure?
Has the party experienced a major foreign policy success?
Is the incumbent party candidate charismatic or a national hero?
Is the challenger charismatic or a national hero?
Lichtman counted only three keys against Obama: the long-term economy, the mid-term elections and charisma (which he gave to Obama in '08 but took away from him in '12).
Now, obviously, the answers to some of those questions are rather subjective (what constitutes "charisma"? how does one define a "major" scandal? etc.), and open to interpretation, but it seems to have worked pretty well for Lichtman over the years.
And here he is on The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell in the summer of 2011, confidently predicting Obama's re-election more than a year before it happened.