Election by Equation: 2 Analysts See a Bush Win

Article excerpt

DESPITE widespread public disapproval of the Republican White House, President Bush will go into next fall's campaign strongly favored to win reelection.

Two political forecasters, using completely different methods, predict that Mr. Bush will handily defeat Gov. Bill Clinton, the presumptive Democratic nominee for the presidency.

Ray Fair, an economist at Yale University, calculates that Bush's margin over Governor Clinton will be a landslide, especially if the economy shows a few more signs of improvement.

Allan Lichtman, a historian at American University, says only a foreign-policy disaster or some other major setback could prevent the Republicans from retaining the presidency.

These predictions, however, could be turned on their heads if Texas billionaire H. Ross Perot, who may run as an independent, performs as strongly as recent surveys indicate. A just-released Texas Poll shows Mr. Perot with 35 percent, Bush with 30 percent, and Clinton with 20 percent among Texas voters.

Professor Fair depends on an economic equation to make his prediction, while Dr. Lichtman relies on 13 "keys" to see which way the election will turn.

Both Fair and Lichtman have developed their methods of prediction over the years, and each has shown itself to be surprisingly accurate in its own way.

Fair says his system works because it is based on two factors that are vital to voters - inflation and economic growth. Those two elements are so influential that they virtually determine which party wins, he says.

The Yale professor, whose principal research involves consumer behavior, enjoys showing visitors to his office a comparison between his 1988 forecasts and the concurrent results of the Gallup Organization.

During the 1988 campaign year, Gallup reported wild swings in public opinion. In June and July, for example, Michael Dukakis led Bush by as much as 17 points. Then in mid-August, Gallup showed Bush moving into a narrow lead.

On the same graph, Fair displays his own month-by-month predictions - and they seldom waver. From May to November, they gave Bush between 52 and 55 percent. Bush's final vote: 53.9 percent.

"I use this chart to needle the pollsters," Fair says. "After August 1988, they more or less got it right."

The professor's equation uses the inflation rate for the two years before the election. The economic-growth figure is based on the per capita rate of expansion during the second and third quarters of the election year. When the figures are not available, he uses the best estimates from economists.

Currently, Fair estimates the inflation rate will be 3 percent, and the growth rate will be 2 percent. …