Never mind the polls: it's baseball that tells you who'll win
Known for his commentary on international relations and US politics, Rupert Cornwell also contributes obituaries and occasionally even a column for the sports pages. With The Independent since its launch in 1986, he was the paper's first Moscow correspondent - covering the collapse of the Soviet Union – during which time he won two British Press Awards. Previously a foreign correspondent for the Financial Times and Reuters, he has also been a diplomatic correspondent, leader writer and columnist, and has served as Washington bureau editor. In 1983 he published God's Banker, about Roberto Calvi, the Italian banker found hanging from Blackfriars Bridge.
Tuesday 06 November 2012
Tired of all those psephologists who, after machine-gunning you with figures for half an hour, say they still aren't sure whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney's going to win? Let's turn to some of the quicker, if less scientific predictors of the result. Alas, in 2012 they're as mixed up as the pros.
Let's start with sporting pointers. One hoary, but uncannily accurate indicator is the Redskins Rule: if the Washington Redskins win their last game before the election, the incumbent or his party wins. Since the Skins set up here in 1937, the rule has been borne out no less than 17 out of 18 times. On Sunday, the team lost to the Carolina Panthers, 21-13. Score one for Mitt.
Ah, but if a National League team wins baseball's World Series, a Democrat usually wins the White House, while an American League victory points to a Republican President. This year, the NL's San Francisco Giants triumphed over the AL's Detroit Tigers. Put that one down to Obama.
And here's a final encouragement for the President. When a British player wins the US Open, a Democrat is guaranteed a second term. Agreed, the precedents are pretty thin, but after Fred Perry won in 1936, Franklin Roosevelt swept to re-election. Given Andy Murray's triumph at Flushing Meadow, Obama must be feeling pretty good.
Now let's turn to financial and economic indicators. Market lore has it that if the Dow Jones rises between Labour Day – the traditional start to the election campaign – and voting day, the incumbent wins. At yesterday's opening, the Dow was down a whisker. Advantage, if anything, Romney.
But when it comes to Halloween masks sold (on the money in every election since 1996), Obama beat Romney roughly 60 per cent to 40 per cent, according to the costume manufacturer Spirit Halloween. Forget those waffling pundits. We're talking landslide here.
Not however if you go by the chocolate-chip cookie "bake-off" between the candidates' wives, organised very four years by Family Circle magazine. It's got it right four times out of five. This year Michelle Obama beat Ann Romney by just 287 votes, out of roughly 9,000 cast.
But all is not lost for Romney. Everything else being equal, the taller candidate tends to win (though not the lanky John Kerry over George W Bush in 2004), and Mitt has a tiny edge here. He also has a longer surname, a guide to the winner in two out of three elections since Warren Harding beat James Cox in 1920.
Unfortunately however he's not left-handed. Remarkably five of the last seven presidents – Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, the elder Bush, Bill Clinton and Obama – have been southpaws. Romney has re-invented himself time and again, but as far as is known, he's still right-handed.
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