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A Potential Perfect Storm Of Issues Affecting Voting In 2020 Election; Are Some Of Us Naturally Immune To COVID-19?; Is Greater Threat Voter Confusion Or Fraud In 2020 Election?; Princeton Grads Create Campus Experience Inside "Bubble"; "Prediction Professor" Calls 2020 Winner. Aired 9-10a ET
Aired August 08, 2020 - 09:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MICHAEL SMERCONISH, CNN ANCHOR: Are we ready to rumble? I'm Michael Smerconish in Philadelphia and I have my doubts. Here's the best summation of Election Day in America that I've ever read, quote, "Imagine hearing the following pitch on 'Shark Tank': A nationwide mega-chain with no corporate headquarters, no CEO.
It'll operate eight times as many U.S. locations as McDonald's, serving twice as many customers despite having about half as many employees. Each location will experience nearly double the daily foot traffic of your average Starbucks.
Not only that, but every one of these approximately 116,000 stores will be a pop-up, remaining open for a single day, closing for good at night. Oh, and by the way, the more than 900,000 workers will be woefully underpaid. That is Election Day in America."
David Litt, who once wrote speeches for President Barack Obama, wrote that assessment in his latest book, "Democracy in One Book or Less." Sounds scary, right? And Litt published his analysis before coronavirus. The presence of the pandemic, it's only compounded our problems.
Pew Research points out that in the 2018 midterm election, nearly 60 percent of American poll workers were 61 or older. If they don't show up, it's a problem. Any shortage of election workers could extend lines and delay the counting of mail-in ballots.
My first guest, who you'll meet in a moment, has studied the impact of election lines since 2012, an election in which he concluded that 750,000 Americans left the polls without voting due to delays. In 2016, he concluded that there were 1.6 million lost votes in the mail ballot process and that number will likely grow in 2020 which will only add to legal disputes should the results be close.
Plus, election delays, they have long-lasting impact. David Litt pointed this out, quote, "The University of Pennsylvania's Stephen Pettigrew has found that for every hour you wait to vote in an election, your odds of voting in the next election drop by about 1 percent. In other words, the mess from the 2008 elections reduced Florida turnout by about 200,000 votes in the 2012 elections which cost Florida an additional 200,000 votes in 2016."
We're now 87 days away from November 3rd or, as I refer to it, the final day of voting. I'm schooling myself to not refer to the first Tuesday in November as election day. That's a dated concept. Lots of people vote early. Thirty-four states plus the District of Columbia now permit no-excuse absentee balloting and some, like my own Pennsylvania, are rookies in this regard.
In five states, Colorado, Oregon, Hawaii, Utah, Washington, the voting is entirely by mail. Counting mail ballots is more cumbersome than when people vote via machine. The envelopes need to be opened, they need to be verified, they need to be tabulated and we might not know who won the night of November 3rd, but not because of any fraud, it'll just take longer to count.
Consider that in New York state, the primary was held on June 23rd. It wasn't until this past Tuesday, six weeks after the polls closed, that victors were declared in two of New York city's congressional races. The reception of 400,000 mail-in ballots contributed to the delays.
Some are accusing U.S. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who donated $1.2 million to Donald Trump between 2016 and 2020, of purposefully slowing down the agency's delivery service. He denies that, denies any wrongdoing, denies slowing down the mail, but announced an organizational realignment yesterday in response to the criticism. Twenty-three postal executives were reassigned or displaced.
Here's the point, it all sounds like a potential perfect storm, a pandemic, states and voters new to the mail-in process, poll workers perhaps staying at home and mail delays, now add in a potential change from our history of learning who won as we sit in front of televisions watching John King's Magic Wall on election night.
I want to know what you think. Go to my website at Smerconish.com and answer this week's survey question. Which poses a greater threat to the 2020 election -- fraud or administrative overload, postal delays and voter error? Here to discuss is Charles Stewart III.
He's the director of MIT's Election Data and Science Lab and he's the author of a recent paper titled "Reconsidering Lost Votes by Mail." Dr. Stewart, what worries you the most?
CHARLES STEWART III, POLITICAL SCIENCE PROFESSOR, MIT: Well, you've given us a pretty good litany there in your -- in your -- in your introduction. Among the things that you mentioned, the things that worry -- thing that worries me most actually has to do with in-person voting and the struggles of getting poll workers to show up on Election Day, show up during the early voting period and to handle, you know, what is likely to be a large volume of voters going through those facilities.
I mean, not only are we going to have voters who would want to vote on Election Day or want to vote in person early, but there are -- there will also be voters who've been unable to navigate the mail ballot stream, maybe for many of the reasons that you mentioned, and they're going to show up as well and so in-person voting has now become the fail-safe in many states for their mail balloting operation.
SMERCONISH: It's amazing. I can put on the screen a map of where there's mail in voting now. It'll be depicted in yellow and I don't know if you'll be able to see it, but it's like two-thirds of the country are now early voting states and as you point out, it almost makes secondary showing up to vote old school in person, but if you have a problem and you're aware of it by mail, you will default to showing up in person. That apparatus needs to be well equipped and able to deal with you.
STEWART: Oh, absolutely and however, I mean, one of the things about -- I mean, showing that there's so much early voting now, either in person or by mail, is a bit of a silver lining, meaning that under these difficult circumstances, voters in most states, not all, but most states have multiple avenues to get their ballots in on time and so -- and in -- and in those states particularly where one can vote by mail, it's possible to have a voting plan for every voter that starts with request your absentee ballot early and at least you'll get that out of the way and you won't have to worry about postal delays, at least in getting your ballot.
SMERCONISH: Let's be proactive. What can be done to ensure that this is carried out in a proper manner?
STEWART: Well, there's a number of things, but rather than making a long list, I would, you know, just, you know, focus on what the -- what voters can do or we as citizens can do and what election officials can do.
What we as citizens or what we as voters can do is, first of all, as I just suggested, have a plan, you know, think right now about how you want to vote in November and if you think that voting by mail is for you, request an absentee ballot or a mail ballot as soon as you -- as soon as you can. And then having done that, read the instructions carefully, follow them to the letter, call if you have a question, don't make any assumptions.
For election officials, I would say at this point, many of the big logistical issues have been taken care of or are in the process of being -- of being taken care of. So from this point forward, it's a matter of doing the recruitment and so actually to circle back to us as citizens, for those of us who feel comfortable doing it, that we can do it safely, volunteer to become a poll worker.
There are websites that one can go to. Powerthepolls.org is one of them where you can sign up and get that process going. Call your local election office, volunteer. Election officials should be recruiting volunteers right now. They should be putting out social and traditional media educational bits about how to request your ballot, how to mark it properly and how to return it properly. So right now, we're in -- we're beginning ...
SMERCONISH: I'll make sure ...
STEWART: ... to get into the -- into the sprint and we got to just do the blocking and tackling.
SMERCONISH: I'll make sure that Powerthepolls.org -- I hope I said it properly -- is in my Twitter feed. One last thing. I've talked about this confluence of factors domestically. I'm looking at newspaper headlines all across the country today talking about -- I'll put one of these on the screen -- how, you know, Russia wants to assist Trump, they hope that Trump wins.
Meanwhile, you've got China and Iran hoping that it's a Biden victory. We've not said anything about trickery or chicanery that might be from a foreign source. That needs to be taken into consideration too. You get the quick final word.
STEWART: Well, it's going to be a -- it's going to be a tough -- a tough election season. Voters need to focus on verified information. Listen to what the election officials are saying, watch what they are doing carefully and have a plan.
SMERCONISH: Dr. Stewart, thanks so much for your time.
STEWART: My pleasure. Thank you.
SMERCONISH: I want you to stick around for more of this conversation and how the pandemic will affect the election. The Trump campaign National Press Secretary Hogan Gidley will join me in a bit to discuss. Make sure you're going to Smerconish.com and answering this week's survey question. Which poses a greater threat to the 2020 election -- fraud or administrative overload, postal delays and voter error?
Up ahead, the coronavirus has hit the country hard, killing over 160,000. How is it that some of us get very sick while others seem fine? Could some of us be naturally immune? Preventative medicine specialist Dr. David Katz is here to explain.
And the coronavirus pandemic is changing the entire college experience for many students. More time at home with mom and dad wasn't necessarily high on the wish list, but two recent Princeton grads are hoping to come to the rescue. The co-founder explains how they're creating a very different type of campus experience.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARTLEBY GAINES, FICTIONAL CHARACTER, ACCEPTED: Guys, I think this could work.
ABERNATHY DARWIN DUNLAP, FICTIONAL CHARACTER, ACCEPTED: We're here for orientation.
GAINES: Did you just say you got accepted here?
DARWIN DUNLAP: Yes, we all did. Thank you so much.
GAINES: Just show of hands, how many people applied to other colleges?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: Why is it that some people get sick and die from coronavirus while others don't even realize they've been infected? A summary article in the journal "Nature Reviews Immunology" puts forth an intriguing possibility. They say a large percentage of the population appears to have immune cells that are able to recognize parts of COVID-19 thanks to past exposure to one of the four known coronaviruses that cause the common cold in millions of people every year.
In other words, some people may already have an unknown degree of protection. That all sounds like good news, so what are the implications on vaccines and herd immunity? Joining me now to discuss is Dr. David Katz. He's the founder and former director of Yale University's Prevention Research Center. He's also president of True Health Initiative. Native resistance, how would I know if I have it, Dr. Katz?
DAVID KATZ, FOUND AND FORMER DIRECTOR, YALE-GRIFFIN PREVENTION RESEARCH CENTER: I don't think we can tell yet, Michael. I think this is excellent news at the population level. We've had indications of this for a long time, that many people may not be prone to get this particular virus at all because they have partial native resistance likely due to prior coronavirus exposures.
We don't yet have population level testing. Listen, we've had a hard time keeping up with the testing we already knew we had to do, right? So we certainly haven't reached the point where we're testing to see do you have this partial resistance reactive T-cells? So I don't know how you know, I don't know how I know. What we can tell everybody is it looks like a significant percentage of us may be partially resistant to SARS CoV2 before we're ever exposed.
You're referring to this new paper in "Nature." Interesting thing here, Michael, and I don't know why this has been flying under the radar because I think it's really very important, there was a pre- print published in another prestigious journal, "Cell," in April and it came out in that journal in mid-May and, you know, in pandemic years, that's a very, very long time ago and it said the same thing.
Forty to 60 percent of people without exposure to this particular virus had essentially a kind of white blood cell or immune system defense force that was predisposed to react to this virus as if it had seen it before and the inference those researchers drew, and this was a group from the United States, was that the common cold coronaviruses may trigger a partial protection to the SARS Co2, coronavirus responsible for COVID-19. This is a new paper by German researchers finding the same thing. So this is the second time we've heard this and exactly what percentage of the population this is, 35 percent, 40 percent, 50 percent 60, percent, a bit less clear, but all of those are big numbers and they potentially move us a lot closer to herd immunity because many people apparently had some degree of immunity to this before the pandemic even began.
SMERCONISH: What impact, if any, then does it have on the subject of vaccination?
KATZ: Well, the good news about vaccine development is these studies show there are various aspects of this virus our immune system can react to and then in fact you can trigger a reaction of SARS CoV2 even using proteins from different coronaviruses. The more ways you have of triggering an immune response that's protective against a particular threat, the more opportunity you have to create an effective vaccine.
So this isn't directly related to vaccine development efforts that are ongoing now, but what it does suggest is that over time, if we hit any walls, if we have difficulty developing vaccines, there are probably lots of different target antigens. These are basically proteins that are part of a virus and it looks like there are various things about this virus that trigger our immune system and that's really what you're looking to do with a vaccine.
You want to trigger an immune system response, essentially use X, X being the vaccine, trigger the response to protect against Y, Y being the actual virus. the more ways you have to do that, the better. So I think it's good news on the vaccine front too.
One other thing, Michael. I think this is really important. So we have these two essentially studies in donated blood looking at the responses of cells outside of people's bodies, OK?
So we had this in "Nature," we had this in "Cell," two very prestigious journals, two completely different groups, U.S., Germany, good news. Many of us may be partly resistant, but what's happening in the real world? Is there evidence that that's true?
And my impression is there has long been evidence that that's true. How else do we explain the fact that on the Diamond Princess, only a small percentage of the passengers got infected? On the USS Theodore Roosevelt, only a small percentage of the sailors got infected.
SMERCONISH: You have been ...
KATZ: In New York City ...
SMERCONISH: You have been very consistent in that regard. I remember, Dr. Katz, when the WHO was saying 3.4 percent fatality, you were saying in all likelihood closer to 1. Give me the final word on this. This is potentially wonderful news that so many may have a native resistance. I just hope it doesn't give people beer muscles to gather 250,000 as
bikers in South Dakota or 200 people on Mulholland Drive jammed into a house party, which occurred in Los Angeles earlier in the week. Obviously the presumption needs to be, hey, I'm not one of the native resistance ...
SMERCONISH: ... nor am I surrounded by people with a native resistance, but I love the -- I love the optimistic news, so thank you again for bringing it.
KATZ: Yes. I'm with you, brother. We have to stay cautious. Your first question, who among us has this partial native resistance? We don't know. So good news ...
SMERCONISH: We don't know.
KATZ: ... but absolutely stay vigilant, stay cautious. Right.
SMERCONISH: Dr. David Katz, thank you. Up ahead, the President continues to cry foul on the security of the 2020 election. How will the chaos caused by the pandemic factor into the rhetoric? Trump campaign National Press Secretary Hogan Gidley will be here to discuss. And I want to remind you to go to the website at Smerconish.com and answer the question. Which poses a greater threat to the 2020 election -- fraud or administrative overload, postal delays and voter error?
Wouldn't we all love a crystal ball to see who's going to win the presidential election in November? Well, I can bring you the next best thing -- a history professor, Allan Lichtman, who's called every race correctly since 1984 and he's here to share his results, his prognostication for 2020.
Plus, the pandemic may have upended normal college life, but would you be willing to pay for a college experience, say, in a Hawaiian hotel? An Ivy League grad says he's got you covered.
SMERCONISH: At a news conference last night, President Trump said there's a risk of foreign countries using mail-in ballots to cheat the election. He then accused the Democrats of doing their own election cheating without attempting to explain his allegation. Hogan Gidley joins me now. He's the National Press Secretary for the Trump campaign.
Hogan, I delivered an opening commentary today essentially arguing that we've got this potential for a perfect storm brewing from now until Election Day or the final day of voting comprised of the following -- voting amidst a pandemic, an administrative overload, postal delay and voter error because of newness with the absentee ballot process which I think begs this question. Doesn't the president have an obligation to tell people that a delay in the count -- I'm thinking about the night of November 3rd -- is not indicative of fraud?
HOGAN GIDLEY, NATIONAL PRESS SECRETARY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: Well, a couple things. First of all, I appreciate you having me on. Thanks so much for the time. Also, I did watch your opening and you make a lot of great points.
GIDLEY: I mean, listen, here at the campaign, we are concerned about voter fraud in this election, in part because in so many states Democrats are now suing to allow votes to come in after Election Day. Nevada is a great example of that and so when you're talking about the potential for fraud, Nevada is going to be the poster child for it in this way. When they are going to send out 2 million ballots in the mail to their voters, they're also putting out envelopes that are prepaid with postage already on them.
Now, the post office doesn't date those with a postmark because they're already prepaid. That means anyone could wake up on Wednesday morning, see that they don't like the results and then go drop their ballots in the mail. It won't receive a postal date stamp on it and so it has three days by Nevada law to actually get to the -- to the location of the courthouse and then to be counted.
That is the potential for massive fraud. Not to mention the fact if you mail it in before the date of the election and it is postmarked with a date, they still give you several days after that, seven days in fact, for it to count toward the candidate you want too. So the potential for the election to change days later in Nevada is very real and that's one of the things we're most concerned about. It's the universal ...
SMERCONISH: The Washington ...
GIDLEY: ... mail-in voting we're talking about. The absentee voting that they do in Florida, in other states, the early voting they do, there are mechanisms and methods in place to make sure the person who's requesting the ballot is actually the person voting, but universal mail-in voting is a serious problem and we're trying to expose that.
SMERCONISH: The Washington -- "The Washington Post" today has a headline, and maybe because it's "The Post," you won't buy into it, but it sums -- it sums it up this way, "The likelier problem with mail voting delaying election results isn't fraud. It's confusion." Here. I'll give you an outlet you'd probably be more inclined to agree with, the lead editorial of today's "Wall Street Journal." Put this up on the screen. They run through all that went wrong in the New York election recently.
But it ends this way, Hogan. It says, "What a fiasco. Meantime, the national debate over mass mail voting proceeds like two postcards passing in the night. President Trump uses the word fraud. The factotums of conventional wisdom hit their computer hotkeys for phrases like no evidence of widespread fraud."
Parenthetically I tell you that's what I was about to simply say to you. But let's see if we can agree on the next part, "Why focus on criminality? Old-fashioned government incompetence is clearly sufficient to create a mail-vote debacle the country might come to regret in November."
What is the administration doing about that?
GIDLEY: But it's not an either/or. It's an and. I mean, for decades, you don't trust the post office with a greeting card to granny. Now, you're telling them that the sacred vote you're trying to cast for president of the United States is going to go through the post office and somehow we're supposed to trust that, you talked about delays, absolutely delays are a concern.
You also talked about the article pointing out that in New York, two congressional districts, six weeks, I think one of them still they haven't certified yet. It took that long to find out who won the election.
SMERCONISH: But five -- five states --
GIDLEY: We expect that --
SMERCONISH: But, Hogan, five states have done this. Five states have done this without any incident whatever. My concern here is protecting the sanctity and the perception of the ballot. And my complaint with the president is that when he lays this predicate for fraud, he's setting up a dynamic, where Americans on November third are going to tune in looking at John King's Magic Wall and wonder, hey, why don't we have a victor tonight?
That's not indicative of fraud. It's indicative of people voting absentee in the midst of a pandemic, and the system not being able to count as quickly as they normally did. You get the final word.
GIDLEY: Well, first of all, there is rife fraud across this country in voting. And that's been proven time and time again in article after article. But what you're arguing here is, there needs to be widespread fraud before we address fraud. That's absolutely ridiculous.
And the states you were talking about who do mail-in voting, correct. They've been doing it a long time.
A couple of differences here, Democrats are trying to change the entire way we vote three months out before an election. And in four of the five states you just mentioned the date specific means the ballot has to come in by 7:00 p.m. on Election Day. It doesn't allow for votes to come in afterwards. That --
SMERCONISH: We're in the midst of a pandemic --
GIDLEY: -- not only sets up a situation for fraud, but it sets up a situation for massive delays as we've discussed on this show.
SMERCONISH: But -- but the insinuation -- respectfully, the insinuation is that somehow the rules are being changed to grease the skids for a campaign against Donald Trump without acknowledging we're amidst COVID-19. And people are going to scared to death --
GIDLEY: That's true.
SMERCONISH: -- to stand in lines and -- they need to be accommodated. So, my suggestion for the president is simply that he begin --
GIDLEY: They did it --
SMERCONISH: -- that he begin talking about how we're going to pull this off because we're America, because we're first world, not third world. And it won't be suggestive of fraud if we don't know a victor until the fourth, fifth or sixth. That's what I wanted to say.
GIDLEY: No, and I understand that. But listen we tried this in person in Wisconsin and it worked. We expect a massive amount of people to vote in this election before Election Day, because of absentee, because of mail-in. But to pretend as though there is no potential for fraud or that there won't be fraud when the rules are set up to allow fraud is just a head in the sand mentality.
We have got to make sure the election is free.
SMERCONISH: All right.
GIDLEY: We have to make sure the election is fair. That's what we want to do. And so we're exposing those states that are trying to opt in the voting system this close to the Election Day --
SMERCONISH: To be --
GIDLEY: -- but also allow --
SMERCONISH: To be continued --
GIDLEY: -- for votes legally after the date of the election. That's unacceptable.
SMERCONISH: Hogan, thanks.
SMERCONISH: We'll continue this conversation, I hope.
SMERCONISH: I want to remind you to answer the survey question at Smerconish.com. Which poses a greater tot the 2020 election? Fraud -- now, you just heard two answers, by the way. You know which way Hogan is going to going to my Web site to vote. And frankly, you know which way I'm going to vote.
Is it fraud or is it the combination of administrative overload, postal delays and voter error?
Still to come, if you are hoping for a typical college campus experience in 2020, you can kiss it good-bye. But it turns out there's a pretty cool alternative. The mastermind behind this idea is here to tell us more.
SMERCONISH: Due to the pandemic tens of thousands of American college students will be taking their courses remotely, online, this fall. Missing will be the companionship of classmates and the bonding experiences that come from living away from home.
Well, enter The U Experience. An entrepreneurial venture hatched by two recent Princeton graduates. The idea is that instead of taking college courses in the family den, students can live amid the similarly situated in a hotel, located in either Arkansas or Hawaii. The cost is 12k in Arkansas, 15k in Hawaii about what students would pay for room and board at many universities.
Joining me now is one of the founders Lane Russell. Lane, I'm envisioning the South Harmon Institute of Technology. Is this a reality show waiting to happen? Or is this about serious learning?
LANE RUSSELL, CO-FOUNDER, THE U EXPERIENCE: Thanks for having me, Mike.
This is about serious learning, but we're letting the colleges take care of that. What we see our value being here is giving the students an opportunity, like you said, to work with other students and to actually live out that, you know, kind of traditional college experience because we do think that has a lot of value as part of that educational experience.
SMERCONISH: So, is there an application process? Are you going to weed through, assuming you get more who want to live under your roof for the next couple of months than you have capacity for? How are you going to determine who gets to be in it and who doesn't?
RUSSELL: Exactly. So, we have an application live on our Web site right now. We are going to be sifting through that, trying to decide how we can make the class both as diverse and inclusive as possible so that we get kind of a microcosm of American society to the best example that we're able to. SMERCONISH: Is this going to be NBA-style? In other words, when you get there in either Arkansas or Hawaii, you're now in a bubble. You're now in a lockdown environment with constant testing?
RUSSELL: Exactly. So, we're going to test the students even before they get to campus to make sure that they're not bringing anything into the local communities that we're involved in. And then once they are in campus they will be under strict protocols. We have an entire handbook on our Web site making sure that, you know, our students are keeping themselves and the communities and the staff members safe.
We'll be limiting their exposure to possible sources of contagion. And, likewise, we do see this as something where, you know, despite being in the middle of a significant health crisis we are also kind of in, I think, the early stages of a significant mental health crisis. And really, I think, we're going -- only be seeing the impacts of this and the impacts of having, you know, millions of college students taken out of their social support networks and thrust into an isolated environment in the months to come and so we're hoping to prevent that because we don't think people (ph) are (ph) talking about this enough.
SMERCONISH: OK. So I'm a college student and I'm now living in this hotel in Arkansas or in Hawaii. And I'm going to Lehigh University in my room. And you're going to Princeton in the next room. And somebody else is at USC and so on and so forth. Is there any common learning experience taking place?
RUSSELL: Yes. So, there are a few things that we're doing to that. We will have community spaces for students. We're giving the students free coffee. We're making sure that they have places both privately in their rooms to study or take lectures especially if they need to participate. And then also common areas where they can get kind of that cafe or library feel.
We are also hoping to have a guest lecture series, whether it's Zoom or through some kind of social distancing measure. But we already have a couple of professors who are interested in coming, speaking to our students.
SMERCONISH: Lane, I wish you good things. I don't know. It's either the Tesla, Apple, Google model of education or it's Firefly festival. I hope it's the former and not the latter. You get the final word.
RUSSELL: Yes. The difference between us and something like Fire Festival is Fire Festival found all the people. And then hope that they can figure out the logistics later.
Right now, we make sure that we -- had our heads down for the last month putting together everything. We've gotten hundreds of (INAUDIBLE) hotels across the country. We are all excited to host this. We've gotten explicit support from the local communities and government. And, right now, it's just a matter of seeing how many students are interesting in doing this so we can build the best class possible.
SMERCONISH: Good luck. Thanks for being here. RUSSELL: Thanks, Michael. Have a good one.
SMERCONISH: Still to come, the final day of voting, 87 days away. The polls say one thing. Pundits from other sides may say another. But what about the keys?
Historian Allan Lichtman, dubbed the Prediction Professor, joins me next to share his 2020 prediction, 13 key questions, two candidates, one winner. What does he say? We'll find out, next.
SMERCONISH: Polling suggests that Joe Biden has the upper hand in the 2020 race. But what do the keys tell us? An American university history professor who has called every race correctly since he began in 1984 has made his forecast for the 2020 presidential race known. With the final day of voting 87 days away, how can he be certain?
Professor Allan Lichtman developed a presidential prediction model of 13 keys. The key factor that help determine whether the incumbent party in the White House will maintain its hold with 13 simple true/false statements. He correctly predicted President Trump's victory in 2016.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
ALLAN LICHTMAN, HISTORY PROFESSOR WHO HAS PREDICTED OUTCOMES OF PRESIDENTIAL RACES SINCE 1984 (on the phone): My system, which is based on patterns of history as you know, as well as anyone, does predict that this is a bad Democratic year and the Republican should win, which means Donald Trump should win. However, for the first time in decades, I have put a caveat on my prediction.
And that is historical patterns can be broken. Donald Trump is a history-shattering candidate. We have never before seen a candidate like this with no record whatsoever of public service.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
SMERCONISH: He also prophesized that the president would be impeached saying Democrats would only have a chance at winning in 2020 if they impeach President Donald Trump.
We showed you the history. So what do the keys predict for 2020? Professor Allan Lichtman joins me now to discuss. He's the author of "Predicting the Next President: The Keys to the White House."
Professor, one asterisk in the year 2000 you said, Al Gore, and he did win the popular vote. And for this cycle now you talk about Electoral College victory. Am I right?
LICHTMAN: Absolutely, because the dynamics have changed. The baseline is now that the Democrats automatically get 5 to 6 million extra votes in just two states, New York and California. Those votes count for zero in the Electoral College.
So, the baseline is now the Democrats will win the popular vote in a close election. So, I now only predict who's going to win which I did in 2016. And by the way, Al Gore should have won in Florida too because of the suppression of many thousands of African-American votes.
SMERCONISH: I'm going to put the keys up on the screen right now. And what I want to call attention to is that they are largely objective. In other words, there's really not a debate about them. It's not what Professor Allan Lichtman thinks. It's what the data says.
But when you look at number 12, charismatic incumbent, you said that is false with regard to Donald Trump. I know that half the country, at least 46 percent would probably disagree. Speak to that.
LICHTMAN: That's exactly my point. When you buy my book, you will see the criterion for this key is you've got to be broadly inspirational to the American people. Like Ronald Reagan was, who brought in all those Reagan Democrats.
Donald Trump is a great showman. But as you note, he only appeals to a narrow segment of the electorate. His approval rating is actually well below 46 percent on average. And his strong approval rating is somewhere between 25 and 30 percent.
That is a candidate of flesh but not a charismatic candidate historically. The once in a generational Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt or Barack Obama in 2008.
SMERCONISH: Professor Lichtman, your track record speaks for itself. What I find most stunning about the 13 keys is that missing are the debates. Missing who ran a better campaign. Are debates and indeed is the campaign generally over blown in its value?
LICHTMAN: Absolutely. The key message of the keys is that it's governing not campaigning that counts. So, forget the polls, ignore the pundits. Don't look at who's up or down day to day. Forget about the debates, the speeches, the ads, the campaign tricks.
The keys tell you to keep your eye on the big picture of incumbent strength and performance. And that's what the keys gauge. Looking at things like long and short-term economy, scandal, social unrest, policy change, foreign policy successes and failures. And as you point out, only two keys have anything to do with the candidates themselves.
SMERCONISH: Final question. I know that now President Trump, candidate Donald Trump, was very happy with you four years ago. He'll be less happy to hear that Professor Allan Lichtman says he's going to lose.
The question is this, is this subject to change? Is this in cement? Have you chiseled it in granite? Or is it in sand?
LICHTMAN: The keys are in granite. He has seven keys against him. It takes six to predict the loss of the incumbent White House party.
However, there are two things outside the realm of the keys or any prediction system, Michael, that keep me up at night. One is voter suppression.
Look, Trump depends on old white guys like me. You can't manufacture more old white guys. That's the most shrinking part of the electorate, but you can try to make it hard for the rising Democratic base of minorities and young people.
We heard your earlier speaker, who is sewing fear and confusion but, Michael, he never answered your question about what the Trump administration is doing, if anything, to make this a full and fair vote.
Second thing that keeps me up at night is Russian intervention. We know they're back. They learned a lot in four years. They may even try to get into the registration rolls this time. And we know for certain, just as in 2016, Donald Trump will welcome and exploit any Russian intervention on his behalf.
So, the keys are set but we live in such an uncertain world. You know, there's an old Chinese saying, some call it a curse, may you live in interesting times.
SMERCONISH: We certainly do. All right, professor. Hopefully it will be before four years that we'll chat again.
LICHTMAN: You know where to find me, Michael.
SMERCONISH: Thank, Professor Allan Lichtman.
Still to come, your best and worst tweets and Facebook comments. We've been so packed we haven't had social media. Believe me, it is flowing in.
And we'll give you the final result of the survey question at my Web site. Go cast a ballot right now. Which poses a greater threat to the 2020 election? Is it fraud or administrative overload, postal delays and voter error?
SMERCONISH: Time to see how you responded to the survey question at Smerconish.com. Which poses a greater threat to the 2020 election fraud or administrative overload, postal delays and voter error?
Survey says 89 percent in the latter category with nearly 20,000 votes cast. By the way, (INAUDIBLE) to David Wasserman from "The Cook Political Report" for the word choice of the survey question.
Catherine, we only have time for one. Make it a winner. What do we got?
Smerconish, cute to see you carrying Trump's water by discrediting the election before it happens.
Discrediting it? Hell, you missed the message.
I'm sounding the alarm not about fraud but about bureaucratic inadequacies amidst the pandemic. You didn't get the message.
I'll see you all here next week.