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The Keys to the White House v. the Shrum Curse

What Really Happened in the 2000 Election

by KARYN STRICKLER

Few people know the real reason why Al Gore simultaneously won and lost his bid for U.S. President in 2000. It was the clash of two mighty forces of American Presidential history that came together to create the divergence between the Electoral College and the popular vote for the first time since 1888: The Keys to the White House vs. The Shrum Curse.

Bob Shrum is a brilliant, Democratic political consultant with notable successes on Gubernatorial and U.S. Senate races — but with a 100% losing record on Presidential elections. Shrum consulted on every Democratic Presidential campaign from John Lindsay to Al Gore. Shrum did not work on the Clinton campaigns. Jimmy Carter’s campaign would have ended "The Curse," but Shrum quit only days into his consultancy on that campaign, keeping the losing streak alive.

Talk of the Shrum Curse is normally only discussed in hushed tones in Washington, DC political circles. But a recent article in The Washington Post let the Genie out of the bottle, freeing me to discuss what really happened in the 2000 Presidential election.

Bob Shrum worked on Al Gore’s campaign in 2000 and his unbroken track record virtually guaranteed that Gore would lose the election — except that The Keys to the White House also had a 100% track record of accuracy and they were predicting a Gore victory in 2000.

The Keys to the White House is a system for predicting Presidential elections, based on a mathematical model for predicting earthquakes. History professor Allan J. Lichtman, developed The Keys to the White House in collaboration with a world-renowned, Russian geophysicist named Volodia Keilis-Borok. (Note: Lichtman is my husband.)

The theory is that presidential elections are referenda on the party in power. The Keys assess the performance, strength, and unity of the party in power, in order to determine whether or not that party will continue to hold the White House. The Keys are based on the analysis of every American presidential election since 1860.

First developed in 1981, The Keys looked backward in American history, and retrospectively, they account accurately for the results of every presidential election from 1860 through 1980. Prospectively, The Keys predicted well ahead of time, the popular-vote winners of every presidential election from 1984 through 2000. As a nationally based system, The Keys cannot predict the results in individual states, and thus relate to the popular vote not the Electoral College results.

The Keys are 13 diagnostic questions that are stated as propositions that favor reelection of the incumbent party. When five or fewer of these propositions are false, or turned against the party holding the White House, that party wins another term in office. When six or more are false, the challenging party wins. The Keys indicate incumbent party success or failure long before the polls or any other forecasting models are of any value. (Refer to THE THIRTEEN KEYS TO THE WHITE HOUSE, at the end of the article.)

In a published article in January of 2000, The Keys predicted that Al Gore would be President of the United States. My husband, Allan Lichtman and I looked at each other wide-eyed and agape when we learned that Bob Shrum was consulting for Al Gore’s campaign. We were both immediately aware of the historical dissonance created by the clash of absolutes: The Keys vs. The Curse.

Being the only people in America aware of the impending collision of the two mighty forces, Allan and I speculated privately about which force would predominate in this historical tug of war and went to bed on November 2, 2000 thinking that The Keys had prevailed. When we awoke on November 3rd, we discovered we had not seen the last of the clash of these behemoth forces of history.

The next couple of weeks saw the corrupt appointment of George W. Bush as President of the United States by the U.S. Supreme Court, going against the popular vote. And now we know — both The Keys and The Curse still have unbroken track records — as Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush occupies the White House. And now you know why.

Sadly, The Keys and The Curse are aligned this year for another Bush victory since Bob Shrum is working for John Kerry and The Keys are in indicating that the incumbent Republicans are currently well positioned to regain the White House in 2004, despite the sour economy for much of the Bush term, and the war in Iraq.

The Republican Party now has four keys turned against it for 2004, two short of the fatal six negative keys. Thus President Bush could endure one more major setback between now and November and still win reelection.

The following nine keys currently favor the incumbent Republican Party (The verdict of the Keys in 2004 absolutely does not indicate an endorsement of George W. Bush.):

* By gaining seats in the U.S. House elections of 2002, Republicans locked in the party mandate key. (Key 1–Party Mandate–TRUE)

* The lack of any nomination challenge to President George Bush gives the Republicans the incumbent party contest key. (Key 2- Contest — TRUE)

* Likewise, Bushis nomination secures the incumbency key. (Key 3–Incumbency — TRUE)

* The absence of any prospective third-party challenger with prospects of winning 5 percent of the vote or more gives Republicans the third-party key. (Key 4–Third Party — TRUE)

* The recovering economy secures the short-term economy key, unless there is a return of the recession in 2004, but this is looking increasingly unlikely. (Key 5–Short term economy — TRUE)

* Despite anti-war protests, the absence of sustained, violent upheavals like those of the 1960’s, avoids loss of the social unrest key. (Key 8–Social unrest — TRUE)

* The lack of a significant scandal implicating the president averts loss of the scandal key. (Key 9–Scandal — TRUE)

* The presidentis response to the September 11 attack including the expulsion of the Taliban from Afghanistan and the capture of Saddam Hussein secures the foreign/military success key, unless the United States suffers major reversals in both Iraq and Afghanistan in 2004. (Key 11- Foreign/military success — TRUE)

* Kerry does not match the charisma of Franklin D. Roosevelt or John F. Kennedy, keeping Republicans from losing the challenger charisma/hero key. (Key 13–Challenger charisma — TRUE The following four keys turn against the Republicans:

* The weak economy during the Bush term as compared to the boom years of Clintonis two terms costs the Republicans the long-term economy key. (Key 6–Long term economy — FALSE)

* The modest domestic accomplishments of the Bush administration topple the policy-change key. (Key 7–Policy change — FALSE)

* With 9-11, the first successful foreign attack on the continental United States since the war of 1812 costs the party in power the foreign/military failure key. (Key 10–Foreign/military failure — FALSE)

* George Bush is no Theodore Roosevelt or Ronald Reagan, forfeiting the incumbent charisma/hero key. (Key 12–Incumbent charisma — FALSE)

According to Dr. Lichtman, while the possibility is extremely remote, The Keys could still change between now and November. But the history professor warns that late-changing keys have not affected the outcome of a presidential election since September and October of 1864 when General Shermanis taking of Atlanta, General Sheridanis victories in Virginia, and the sinking of the last Confederate ramming vessel turned the foreign/military success key in favor of the Lincoln administration and averted loss of the third party key.

It is surely too late for the economy to tumble into a double-dip recession in time for Americans to feel the pain before November 2, 2004. Never has the economy taken a major new turn this close to a presidential election.

Conceivably one of several smoldering scandals n the outbreak of prison abuse, deception about weapons of mass destruction, the release of the name of the CIA agent married to administration critic Joseph Wilson n could burst into flame and singe the president. However, the Republicans who control both Houses of Congress have kept the lid on investigations. It took many months of diligent investigations and persistent questioning of witnesses, for example, to crack the Watergate Scandal of the Nixon administration. So the only possibility, however remote, is that the Special Counsel investigating the CIA leak indicts top administration officials before the election.

The shakiest key for the administration is the foreign/military success key. It is possible that conditions in Afghanistan and Iraq — especially now that military deaths in Iraq have crossed the 1,000 mark — could become so dire as to cancel the Presidentis earlier successes. Even this turn of events, however, would still leave Bush one key short of defeat, according to the professor.

Kerry could lose the popular vote and win the Electoral College tally, which Bush accomplished in 2000 for the first time since 1888. Savor the irony of that for a moment. Although Kerry cannot depend on such unlikely turns of fortune, he can help himself by trying to scramble the historical odds.

"Nothing changes from one election to the next in America, because the media, the candidates, the pollsters, and the consultants are codependent in the false idea that elections are exercises in manipulating voters, and in giving us negative campaigns, bland and scripted lines," said Allan Lichtman.

Lichtman says that Kerry has a chance to break this cycle by firing the hucksters, tearing up their scripts, and speaking forthrightly and concretely about what Americans should be accomplishing during the next four years. Al Gore finally decided to take this route, albeit too late.

Kerry should lead a debate on critical neglected issues. He could, for example, respond to the worldwide scientific consensus on the perils of global warming by exploring how we can make a complete shift away from fossil fuels toward clean, renewable energy. He could even explain how fossil fuel dependence warps our foreign policies, hurts our national security, and lead to the war in Iraq. Imagine such a discussion in a presidential campaign.

"Why not break precedent and set up a shadow government, with a suggested CIA Director, and Secretaries of State, Defense, Treasury, and Interior. Tell us how this shadow administration would government differently from the Bush administration. Submit an alternative budget and drafts of international agreements, and major legislation; let the shadow officials campaign for Kerry and his policies," said Lichtman.

Professor Lichtman says that John Kerry has a choice between following the usual meaningless routine in the hope that setbacks to the administration and the country will elect him in November or take a chance on running a new kind of daring, innovative, and programmatic campaign. With the right choice, Kerry can achieve an historical breakthrough that would establish the basis for a principled choice of our national leader and a grassroots mobilization on issues that matter to Americais future.

KARYN STRICKLER is a campaign expert, activist, and writer living outside Washington, DC. You can reach her at fiftyplusone@earthlink.net .

THE 13 KEYS TO THE WHITE HOUSE

The Keys are statements that favor the re election of the incumbent party. When five or fewer statements are false, the incumbent party wins. When six or more are false, the challenging party wins.

KEY 1 (Party Mandate): After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections.

KEY 2 (Contest): There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination.

KEY 3 (Incumbency): The incumbent party candidate is the sitting president.

KEY 4 (Third party): There is no significant third party or independent campaign.

KEY 5 (Short term economy): The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.

KEY 6 (Long term economy): Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms.

KEY 7 (Policy change): The incumbent administration effects major changes in national policy.

KEY 8 (Social unrest): There is no sustained social unrest during the term.

KEY 9 (Scandal): The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.

KEY 10 (Foreign/military failure): The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.

KEY 11 (Foreign/military success): The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.

KEY 12 (Incumbent charisma): The incumbent party candidate is charismatic, or a national hero.

KEY 13 (Challenger charisma): The challenging party candidate is not charismatic, or a national hero.

Allan J. Lichtman, The Keys to the White House (Lexington Books: Lanham, MD). Lichtman can be reached at: lichtman@american.edu;