In the early 1980s, Allan Lichtman, a history professor at the American University in Washington, DC, developed a system for predicting the outcomes of presidential elections. Studying all elections back to the Civil War (the birth of the current two-party system), he isolated circumstances that are typically associated with victory for the incumbent party. Applying them forward, he has had an unmatched record of predictive success. In the elections of 2004, 2008, and 2012, among others, he called the outcomes correctly before the election year even began. His successes have been widely noted. He’s now, for example, the “election forecasting guru” (Real Clear Politics), “no ordinary soothsayer” (Agence France Press), and the “presidential champion” in the realm of predictions (MarylandReporter.com). A Washington Post writer even said Lichtman system’s is foolproof, a claim pondered in chapter 16.
Martin Gottlieb, as an editorial writer and political columnist for the Dayton Daily News in Ohio, was floored and fascinated by Lichtman’s unparalleled successes in the 1986 senatorial elections. Gottlieb began what became a career-long coverage of the record of the Lichtman “keys.” That resulted in a 2006 book with this title. This version is an update, with new chapters on the three subsequent presidential elections. What emerges from Campaigns Don’t Count is not merely a way to win in the game of political predictions but a new understanding of how American politics works, of what drives presidential election outcomes. Hint: It is not campaigns, media manipulation, money, political organization, ideology, or any of the other forces that the media—and the “experts” who advise them—focus on.