The portents point to Dole

If baseball is a reliable election forecaster, then Bob's on a roll
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The Independent Online
On the face of things, one omen at least looks good for Bob Dole in his apparently doomed quest for the American presidency. On Saturday night, the New York Yankees won baseball's World Series - and every time they have done so in an election year since the war, a Republican has won the White House.

So it was in 1952 and 1956 when the Yankees triumphed, and on each occasion, a few days later, Dwight Eisenhower was elected. Not so in 1960, when the Pittsburgh Pirates prevailed and the Democratic candidate, John Kennedy, knew he had it made; or in 1976, when the Cincinnati Reds defeated the Yankees, and Jimmy Carter breathed audibly easier in his close race with the Republican Gerald Ford.

And so to 1996. The Yankees surged from behind to rout the Atlanta Braves with four straight wins. What clearer sign could there be that, come 5 November, Bob Dole, too, will defy every expert (inside as well as outside his own party) and stage a political resurrection that would eclipse that of Harry Truman in 1948?

Alas, dear Bob, not so fast. Cast back a little further, and the law of the Yankees goes awry.

Back in 1864, it started promisingly enough. Of course, neither the World Series nor major league baseball was around then. But that September Yankees did put Atlanta to the sword - literally - in the person of General William Tecumseh Sherman. And largely on the strength of that feat, the greatest of all Republican presidents, Abraham Lincoln, was re-elected for a second term.

And the baseball Yankees did win it all in 1928, the year that the Republican Herbert Hoover captured the White House. Unfortunately for the theorists, however, when Babe Ruth's team also won in 1932 and 1936, so too did the greatest of all Democratic presidents, Franklin Roosevelt. Bill Clinton ain't no Franklin Roosevelt, but even so ...

And in terms of the cities involved, the 1996 Series is unarguably a Democratic victory. New York, long reviled as a sorry monument to North- eastern liberalism run riot, a place to be avoided by all God-fearing people, has put it over boastful Atlanta, self-styled capital of the "New South", which in turn is an anchor of the "New Republican Party" based in the sun-belt West and South.

If ever there was an omen for the presidential election - in which not a single North-eastern state is likely to vote for Mr Dole and the Democrats are set to take some Republican redoubts in the South - that is surely it.

For most of the Nineties, in which they have appeared in four out of five World Series, the Atlanta Braves have acted like the New York Yankees of old - arrogant and condescending, accustomed to winning in a canter. This time, too, Atlanta went two games up, without breaking into a sweat, before hubris was overtaken by nemesis.

Can the same happen to Bill Clinton in the last eight days of Campaign 96? Buoyed by the Yankees, Bob Dole can only pray it will.