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Interview with Allan Lichtman -

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Well, if last week's presidential debate is anything to go by, Barack Obama still has a major fight on his hands to win a second term in the White House. The President was widely considered to have lost that debate.

CNN REPORTER: Registered voters who actually watched the debate tonight - we asked them who won the debate… Look at this… 67% say it was Mitt Romney… 25% say it was President Obama. A very very decisive verdict.

Today's 'New York Times' is reporting that a new survey shows Mitt Romney is still ahead, backed by 49% of likely voters compared to the President's 45%. So just one month from the election what are the chances of Barack Obama regaining the lead he held just last week? Yalda Hakim spoke with political analyst and author Professor Allan Lichtman.


YALDA HAKIM: Professor Lichtman, you have been saying for more than a year now that there was no way President Barack Obama could lose. Do you still hold that view after his performance at last week's debate?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN, POLITICAL HISTORIAN: I still stand by that prediction because my forecasts are based to the keys of the White House, which turn not on the events of campaigns but on the big picture of governing, foreign policy successes and failures, policy change, scandal, social unrest, long and short-term economy and by the fundamentals Obama is still ahead. However I have got to say, one of my adversaries must have paid him off because he did everything possible in that debate to prove me wrong. That was certainly perhaps, the worst debate performance in the history of televised debates in the US. And if campaigns produced election winners Obama would be a sure loser. But I'm sticking by my prediction.

YALDA HAKIM: Well something did go wrong, what do you think that was? Do you think he simply underestimated the potential of Mitt Romney?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: You know, I think Obama has lost the magic for two reasons. One, once he became President he got into the Washington bubble. He is running around going on Air Force 1 everywhere. Everyone is bowing down to him and everyone is saying yes, Mr President. You lose touch with reality.

Secondly, he is listening too much to the consultants and pollsters and the ad men and the Huxters and not being himself. If I were to make one reform in American politics, it would to be take the consultants, the admen and the Huxters at the beginning of the election year and send them off to some very nice far away Pacific island. They kill candidates because they bring them down to the lowest common denominator.

YALDA HAKIM: It seems to have completely reinvigorated Mitt Romney and his supporters. Surely that's a major problem for the Democrats now?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: I do think it has reinvigorated Mitt Romney and made his campaign better. I still stand by my predictions that the fundamentals will produce an Obama victory. But it could be a pyric victory, that is - if he doesn't win a mandate and doesn’t stand for something in this campaign he will have a very difficult four years.

He has got to be specific and give us a vision and he has to get his base motivated so they will support him in a second term. Obama is an extraordinary communicator. He is a great politician. He just has to be himself and that means being inspirational, being specific and, yes, absolutely taking on Mitt Romney whenever Obama thinks he is miss representing the truth.

YALDA HAKIM: Well US job figures have just come out and it's been a real boost for the Obama camp. Is that enough to get him over the line now after last week's performance?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: I think he has enough to get him over the line. Look, if this debate was going to decide the election, Romney should be 20 points ahead. But in fact the polls are pretty even. Even the Gallup tracking poll that showed a bounce for Romney is back now approximately where it was before the debate. Let's not forget there are two more debates to come. There is a Vice-Presidential debate. There is a lot to happen and we shouldn't get too caught up in events of the moment. That's the biggest fallacy we have in analysing elections. We should look at the big picture.

YALDA HAKIM: Some commentators have said those job figures were so good that they have speculated that the race could have been orchestrated by the White House?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: That is not some commentators and the media has really flubbed this. That is some of the most irresponsible attacks not coming from responsible economists or commentators but coming from the far Right Wing supporters of Mitt Romney. It's outrageous, those figures are put out by civil servants who have no partisan alignment the President has no involvement with them.

Every time something comes out unfavourable to the right they accuse it of being bias. If the media puts a positive story out on Obama - it’s got to be because the media is biased, if there are good job figures it's got to be because someone has manipulated them. You in the media should be ashamed of yourself for giving any credence whatsoever to those charges. If someone charges that the moon is made of green cheese would you report that?

YALDA HAKIM: What if the President bombs out in his second debate?

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: I would be shocked if Obama bombs out in his second debate. Ronald Reagan in his first debate with Walter Mondale in 1984 looked like a tired, confused old man and substantially lost that debate. He came on strong as expected in the second debate, although he didn't win it by as big a margin as he lost the first, and won the presidential election by 20 points. John Kerry won all three debates in 2004. George Bush lost all of them but George Bush still won the election of 2004. We can't be too much beguiled or be dazzled by individual campaign events. But I would be shocked to see a similar lacklustre performance by the President.

YALDA HAKIM: Professor Lichtman, thank you for your time.

PROFESSOR ALLAN LICHTMAN: My great pleasure. Take care.

Allan Lichtman there, who successfully predicted the winner of every US election since Reagan in 1984. Read more about how he does it on our website. Plus there are details of SBS's full election coverage.


9th October 2012