The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani could help Democrats win the presidency, according to historian Allan Lichtman, unless the White House has an effective strategy for dealing with the aftermath.
“Most Americans have never heard of him,” Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University, said in an interview with the Daily Caller. “It also could have the result of escalating deadly violence across the Middle East. We just don’t know if Trump has any coherent follow-up strategy.”
In his 1996 book, “The Keys to the White House,” Lichtman described 13 “keys” capable of successfully predicting most presidential elections. Two of the keys include foreign policy. If an incumbent president presides over a foreign policy success, the incumbent party is more likely to win the White House. If the president presides over a foreign policy failure, the incumbent party is more likely to lose. (If the president doesn’t experience either one, the absence of a “win” still counts as a point against him.)
Prior to ordering the Thursday missile strike that killed Soleimani, Lichtman said, both keys leaned against President Trump’s bid for reelection. (RELATED: TAKALA: Professor Who Predicted Trump Election Thinks Michelle Obama Could Win 2020)
“When he pulled out of Syria and the Kurds were being killed, it wasn’t just Democrats who criticized that. It was Republicans as well, including [South Carolina Sen.] Lindsey Graham, who was very critical,” Lichtman said. “With Iran, we’ve never had any goodwill, but we seem to have lost our goodwill with Iraq as well.”
The White House announced a deal in October to reduce the U.S. presence in Syria, a move widely viewed as helping the Syrian regime backed by Iran. Soleimani allegedly landed in Baghdad after traveling out of either Syria or Lebanon the day he was killed, an Iraqi official told the Associated Press.
Before the conflict with Iran escalated, Lichtman said the president’s electoral prospects were aided by the fact that public attention focused mostly on other issues. If public attention ratchets up, Lichtman said, the historical blueprint suggests Trump’s options for turning the situation around include making a deal or organizing a military expedition. (RELATED: LICHTMAN: Pelosi, Schiff Should Take More Time If They Want A Successful Impeachment Effort)
“The  Camp David Accords. The success of putting together an international coalition and driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait under the George H.W. Bush administration. Those are examples of … Democratic success and Republican success,” Lichtman said.
“Things are looking pretty bad on the foreign policy front,” he added. “I’m waiting to see how much more public attention is turned.”