Day 6

Presidential historian says impeachment would kill Trump's chances for a second term

Allan Lichtman, who has accurately predicted presidential elections since 1984, says impeachment would stop Trump from being re-elected.

Allan Lichtman has accurately predicted presidential elections from Reagan to Trump

On Thursday, U.S. President Donald Trump called on Chinese and Ukrainian official to investigate Democratic candidate Joe Biden — a request similar to that which triggered an impeachment inquiry against Trump in September. (Kevin Lamarque/Reuters)
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Historian Allan Lichtman says that if U.S. President Donald Trump is impeached, it's unlikely he'll win re-election in 2020.

Using a set of criteria he calls the keys to the White House, Lichtman has accurately predicted the outcomes of presidential elections since 1984.

Lichtman is a professor at the American University in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Case for Impeachment.

As the House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, continue an impeachment inquiry, Lichtman says Trump's fate is all but sealed.

"Trump has gotten away with no accountability for anything he's done in his entire life ... Now, finally, the Democrats have stopped playing not to lose and are holding Trump accountable," he told Day 6 host Brent Bambury.

Below is part of that conversation.

You accurately predicted that Donald Trump would win in 2016, and once he was in office you predicted he would win again in 2020. Do you stand by that prediction today?

To be most accurate, that prediction was heavily qualified. What I actually said was Donald Trump would win again in 2020 unless the Democrats grew a spine and began to investigate Donald Trump for impeachment.

Because according to my system, the keys to the White House, if Donald Trump became only the third U.S. president to be impeached by the full House, that would pin the scandal key against him. And that would be pivotal for defeating him in 2020.

Now, lo and behold, the Democrats seem to have, like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizard of Oz, found some courage and are finally doing what is right morally, constitutionally and politically.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called an impeachment inquiry against Trump after details of a call between the U.S. and Ukraine presidents was released by a whistleblower last month. (Zach Gibson/Getty Images)

In 2016, you saw something that almost no one else did. How did you do that?

My 13 keys to the White House rejects all conventional wisdom about presidential elections. Doesn't look at polls, doesn't listen to the pundits, doesn't follow day-to-day events, doesn't consider fundraising, ads, speeches and debates.

Rather the system which I developed based on looking at every election from 1860 to 1980, and which as you said has correctly forecast presidential elections since, simply looks at the big picture: the strength and performance of the party holding the White House.

And there were 13 key factors measuring that, and if six or more go against the party holding the White House — whether or not the sitting president is running — they lose.

And I found six keys against the incumbent White House Democrats in 2016 which is why I was able to defy the conventional wisdom and predict Trump's victory.

And by the way, he wrote me a congratulatory note after his win.

Do you have that framed?

I sure do.

It seems unlikely that you'll get another letter of congratulations from President Trump if you're predicting he's going to lose now. Do you anticipate that more keys could be turned against the president as this impeachment inquiry goes forward?

This is why the scandal key is so important because it triggers other keys. It may well trigger a real challenge to his nomination, presuming he survives the process.

If he doesn't survive the process, you're definitely going to get a big internal party fight which is another key.

And, of course, outside this process he is still vulnerable to other lost keys such as an election year recession or a foreign policy setback.

Trump's blowing up himself. It's not the Democrats who are blowing him up. He's condemning himself with his own words- Allan Lichtman, historian

Is it possible the requests he's made of Ukraine and China could equal a foreign policy scandal and turn that key?

Absolutely. I think the requests he's made are an abuse of presidential power.

On the one hand, you have a dependent country. On the other hand, you have a country that we're involved in a trade war with and wants to get concessions from the U.S.

You also can't take anything of value as a political candidate from a foreign national much less foreign leaders.

There's a wonderful saying from Shakespeare: "Then there is the engineer who hoist himself on his own petard." In other words, who blew up himself.

Trump's blowing up himself. It's not the Democrats who are blowing him up. He's condemning himself with his own words, something we never had in the Mueller report.

Allan Lichtman has predicted elections correctly since Ronald Reagan’s 1984 re-election, including Donald Trump's win in 2016. (Paul J. Richards/AFP/Getty Images)

But the Democrats have been wary of this idea of impeachment and, in 2018, they won the midterm elections by focusing on issues that seem to matter to the American people: health care [and] gun control, and they ignored the issues that President Trump was trying to politicize.

Some people think impeachment endangers that strategy; that it could backfire. What do you think?

Again the conventional wisdom is 180 degrees wrong. A presidential election is not a midterm election. You can win midterm elections by hunkering down in your district and developing issues relevant to the people in your district.

Presidential elections are driven by the top of the ticket. No party has ever regained the U.S. House in a losing presidential election, and issues have no predictive value whatsoever in presidential elections.

Remember back in 1980, everyone was saying, 'Oh Ronald Reagan is much too radically right on the issues to ever be re-elected.' He won in a landslide.

Look at the impeachment of Clinton. Yeah, it cost the Republicans a few House seats, but it gave them the biggest prize of the presidency in 2000, an election that Democrats should otherwise have easily won at a time of peace, prosperity, domestic and foreign tranquillity.


This Q&A has been edited for length and clarity. To hear the full interview with Allan Lichtman, download our podcast or click Listen above.