"I CAME across a yellowing copy of Page 1 of The Sunday Sun Perspective section, dated March 10, 1991."
So begins a recent letter from Joe Pachino of Baltimore. He was twitting me about about an article of mine on that page that included this assertion: "George Bush is going to be re-elected as decisively as James Monroe was in 1821 (President Monroe got 231 of 232 electoral votes)."
First of all, let me say I would rather be a yellowing journalist than a yellow one.
Second of all, let me say that article was part spoof of political prognostication, as I thought my i.d. that day signaled: author of "campaign biographies of Presidents Edmund Muskie, Spiro Agnew and Edward Kennedy."
But third of all, I did in fact believe then that President Bush, basking in the glow of Desert Storm, would be re-elected with ease.
And fourth of all, Pachino, that's not the half of it. I still believed that last Dec. 29 -- eight months after the glow had faded -- when I wrote a completely serious piece for Perspective predicting the president would be re-elected. I based that on several forecasting techniques developed by myself but mostly by others -- economic, political, historical, geographical and trivial.
And, finally, fifth of all, God help me, today as the Republicans begin their national convention with George Bush trailing Bill Clinton in 28 of the 29 state polls I am aware of and by 19 points in the latest national poll, I still believe it!
I still believe it based on Ray Fair's formula for predicting a presidential election. It involves a number of economic statistics. To over-simplify, basically this Yale economist has found that if the economy is growing even very slightly, or even if it's level, and if inflation is low, an incumbent president will win.
I still believe it based on Allan Lichtman's formula. This American University political historian looks at 13 "keys" to the incumbent president's party keeping the White House. These are economic statistics and objective social and political indicators. Among those, for example, are "is there sustained social unrest?" and "is the incumbent-party candidate charismatic or a national hero?"
The answer to both those questions this time is obviously "no." The former key thus is a plus for Bush, the latter a negative. You need eight keys to be re-elected. I calculate Bush has nine or 10 now and can't have fewer than eight under any foreseeable circumstances.
An indicator that I did not use in the December article is "When hemlines rise in an election year, the Democratic candidate will win. When hemlines fall, the Republican candidate will win." (The American Enterprise, July/August 1992).
Last Thursday Suzin Boddiford reported in The Sun: "This fall in a quest for newness, designers staked out the very long skirt, plunging daytime hemlines to midcalf and some even to the ankle. . . ."