Predicting the Next President: A Round-Up

Three out of four random models agree on who'll come out on top

   

With the Republican convention having come and gone, and the Democratic convention just kicking off, the battle for the Oval Office is on full boil.

But really, all the debates, talking points and clips of Clint Eastwood talking to a chair are just a means to an end. And that end can be summed up in one simple question: Who will be the next president?

2012 election democrat republican 630 200x200 Predicting the Next President: A Round Up
The GOP’s Has-Beens and Rising Stars

While we won’t know for sure until November, of course, plenty of people, with plenty of different methods, are taking a guess at who’ll come out on top. Countless factors, from tweets to speech rhetoric to economic conditions, have been weighed in an attempt to predict the outcome.

Have a look at just a few of those predictions:

Restaurant Sales

Forget about polls and politicking — let’s start off with something more appealing to our palettes: food. The Los Angeles Times recently looked at the amount of people attending certain restaurants and plotted that against those patrons’ political ideology and activism.

And while that made for an interesting graphic — and an unsurprising one in some cases, as Romney lovers prefer Chick-fil-A while Obama-followers flock to Whole Foods (NYSE:WFM) – The Motley Fool took it a step further and tried to chop up said statistics to predict the race’s outcome.

You can read all the details of it here, but the gist of it is this: “Republican” restaurants not only show steadier sales growth — which in theory means more customers and, subsequently, voters — but also seem to have more politically active munchers attending.

Winner: Mitt Romney

Electoral College Model

OK, if that sounds a bit dubious (although delicious), maybe this one is seems more well-done. Two University of Colorado professors created a model that looks at national unemployment rates and per capita income in each of the 50 states to decide who’ll gain the 270 electoral votes needed for a bout in the White House.

The model has correctly predicted the correct president every year since 1980 — although retrospectively. And this year, it’s saying all the swing states won’t be swinging in favor of the Democrats.

Winner: Mitt Romney

Bread & Peace Model

The Bread & Peace model predicts what percentage of the popular vote the incumbent will receive based on two factors. The “bread” aspect considers real personal income growth, while the “peace” factor considers the number of American casualties in foreign wars during the candidate’s presidency.

It was developed by Douglas Higgs and correctly predicted outcomes for Presidents Carter, George H.W. Bush, Reagan and Nixon in their reelection runs, and also for LBJ’s full term.

Things could indeed change in the next couple months, but for now, such an emphasis on the economy in the Bread & Peace calculations also tilts its prediction in the favor of the new guy.

Winner: Mitt Romney

Lichtman’s 13 Keys

If you think two factors aren’t enough (or if you didn’t like the prediction), maybe you’ll prefer American University professor Alan Lichtman’s method. He looks at 13 “keys”: party mandate, contest, incumbency, third party, short-term economy, long-term economy, policy change, social unrest, scandal, foreign/military failure, foreign/military success, incumbent charisma and challenger charisma.

Whew. That’s a lot to consider. And once you break those down, the rest is simple. If more keys go against the party in power, the party in power losers.

And Lichtman — like the University of Colorado professors behind the Electoral College method — also has a perfect history. He developed this model in 1981, and has been correct for all seven elections since 1984.

It looks like one of the two models is about to end its streak, though.

Winner: Barack Obama

These predictions, of course, are just a few examples and are just that: predictions. So while they seem to tilt in favor of Romney ousting smooth-talking Obama, we’ll all have to wait and see … or wait and vote … when November rolls around.

The opinions contained in this column are solely those of the writer.

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