A (Semi-) Scientific Guide

VIDEO: David Kerley, Nicolle Wallace discuss candidate's strategies for 2012 election.
ABCNEWS.com

Momentum has been swinging back and forth between President Obama and Mitt Romney for the past month, leaving experts to argue over the polls, and the candidates in a virtual deadlock just days out from the election.

While partisan pundits and campaign spinners stay busy quarrelling over the validity of the latest swing state surveys, there is a more colorful set of predictive terms. From cookies and coffee cups to more recent (and real) trends, here's a look at a few of the most odd and compelling signs that [insert candidate's name here] is bound for glory on Tuesday night:

Tune in to ABCNews.com on Tuesday, Nov. 6 for livestreaming coverage of Election 2012. Our Election Day show kicks off at noon, and the Election Night event begins at 7 p.m.

The Blessing/Curse of Nov. 6

Even as larger numbers of Americans choose to submit absentee ballots or vote in the days and weeks ahead of the election, there remains something special about Nov. 6. In a phenomenon sure to hearten superstitious Republicans, records dating back to the 19th century indicate that the sixth day of November has been a troublesome one for Democratic presidential candidates.

Abraham Lincoln, a Republican, won his first term on that date in 1860. Candidates Harrison (1888), McKinley (1900), and Hoover (1928) all triumphed on Nov. 6. Presidents Eisenhower (1956) and Reagan (1984) both won reelection on the Republicans' lucky day.

Should the vote goes his way Tuesday, President Obama would be the first Democrat to keep or claim the White House on Nov. 6.

Signs point to: Romney, who would become the GOP's "lucky number seven" with a win on the 6th.

It's The Economy…

No incumbent since FDR has won re-election with a nationwide unemployment rate higher than 7.2 percent. The number today: 7.9 percent. That's up a tenth of a point from October's report.

The jobless rate was 7.8 percent in January 2009 when Obama had just left Chicago for the White House. By October, less than a year after he'd assumed office, it had moved into double digits.

Over the past three years, though, unemployment has declined steadily. And if we learned anything from Ronald Reagan's successful re-election bid in 1984, it's that trends -- Reagan's rate was 7.2 percent, down from Jimmy Carter's 7.5 -- can trump stand-alone figures.

Signs point to: Toss-up. Unemployment is above 7.2 percent, but trending down.

The Redskins Rule

It might be the safest bet in presidential politics and it goes like this: when the Washington Redskins win their final home game before the general election, the incumbent party follows suit and wins another term in the White House. Through 72 years of NFL football and 18 elections, the rule has been broken only once, in 2004, when George W. Bush overcame a shoddy performance by the 'Skins to defeat Sen. John Kerry.

By this measure, D.C.'s beloved Robert Griffin III, the Redskins' rookie quarterback, has both a season and a presidency to save when the Carolina Panthers come to town this Sunday.

There are two corollaries to "The Redskins Rule," both of them favoring President Obama. The first, one of the oldest predictors on record, says a National League victory in the World Series augurs the same for Democrats in November. Earlier this week, the N.L. Champion San Francisco Giants completed a 4-game sweep of the Detroit Tigers. Sixteen of the past 23 elections, dating back to 1920, have followed this model.

Then there are the Los Angeles Lakers. They may have pro basketball's newest "super team," but it's their flaming out of last season's playoffs that should have the Romney campaign concerned, or at least a bit disappointed. The Lakers have played in 29 NBA finals series since 1952, nine of them coming in an election year. And with the exception of 2008, when they played Boston and lost, the Republican candidate has won the race.

Signs point to: Obama -- barely. The Giants won the World Series and the Lakers were bounced early from the '12 NBA playoffs. RGIII can seal the deal for the president with a victory Sunday afternoon. But with the Redskins' 3-5 record, even a matchup with the one-win Panthers is no sure bet.

The Underage 'Vote'

The baby bellwethers polled by Scholastic magazines have been offering a pretty accurate accounting of what's to come -- probably by parroting their parents preferences -- since the poll was introduced in 1940. The winner of the nationwide survey has, with only two exceptions (1948 and 1960), gone on to win or keep his place in the White House.

Signs point to: President Obama, who defeated Mitt Romney by six points, 51-45 percent, in the 2012 poll.

Beyond the Swing States... the Swing Counties

Florida's Hillsborough County, home to Republican National Convention host city Tampa, is one of the counties to watch closely on election night. Traditionally Republican-leaning, it turned to Obama in 2008. This year, like in so many other places, its margin of victory is expected to be razor-thin.

The same goes for Hamilton County., Ohio, which went for Bush in 2004, before swinging to Obama four years later. In both races, the winner took 53 percent of the vote. Large urban centers tend to go Democratic, but Cincinnati, right on the border with Kentucky, is more difficult to predict.

Also to keep an eye on: Prince William County in those hotly contested Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., exurbs; Arapahoe and Jefferson Counties in Colorado; and Iowa's Polk County. All three states went for Obama in 2008. Winning them on Tuesday would be a strong sign the night is breaking his way.

Signs point to: TBD - Watch this space! We'll have voting results from the ABC News decision desk on election night.

There's No Place (to Win) Like Home

No candidate before or after James K. Polk in 1844 has lost in both of his "home states" and still won the presidency.

Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Richard Nixon, and both Bushes all lost one, but triumphed in the other. Wilson and Nixon won in the places they were born, but failed to carry the states where they lived. Fortune cut the other way for Lincoln and Bushes 41 and 43, the latter two being Massachusetts- and Connecticut-born, respectively, but for official purposes, Texans.

Signs point to: Obama. Romney will have to "do a Polk-a" (our term) to win the White House. The former Massachusetts governor is looking at long odds in the Bay State and a small but persistent lag in Michigan, where he was born and lived, for a time, as the governor's son.

The Diversifying Electorate

The Obama campaign contends that the nation's changing demographics are working in their favor. The country is getting less white and the share of Latino and African-American voters continues to grow. But nothing's decided quite yet. If the white vote goes up, that's a problem for the president; if the Latino or African-American vote goes down, it could be devastating to his reelection bid.

In 2008, when President Obama won a big victory, whites made up 74 percent of the electorate, while African-Americans accounted for 13 percent, and Latinos 9 percent. Check back against those numbers on election night.

(Here's how the president did, state-by-state, with Latinos in 2008: In Nevada, he won 76 percent; in Florida, 57 percent; and in Colorado, 61 percent. All three states are considered up for grabs Nov. 6.)

Signs point to: TBD – We'll know more as the returns trickle in on Tuesday night.

Family Circle Magazine's First Lady Cookie Contest

It may be the highest-stakes bake-off in America. Family Circle magazine readers voting on the (would-be) first lady's cookie recipes have for two decades accurately predicted the matriarch who would go on to inhabit the White House. The only erroneous projection was in 2008's contest, when Mrs. Obama's shortbread cookies lost to Cindy McCain's oatmeal butterscotch recipe.

Signs point to: Obama. The first lady's "white and dark chocolate chip cookies" won 51.5 percent of the 2012 vote, edging out Ann Romney's "M&M cookies" by 3 points in what the magazine called their "smallest ever margin."

Mo' Money, No Problems

Ninety-four percent of candidates who outspend their opponents go on to win the vote, according to a widely quoted figure Politifact rated "mostly true." However you parse the numbers, having more cash is a major boost.

Both Mitt Romney and President Obama have raised in excess of a $1 billion during this election cycle, and with outside groups pumping in millions more, we might never know which candidate had more money backing his message.

Signs point to: Toss-up! Early indications are that while Romney has spent a little more, the Obama team has gotten more bang for their buck.

Join ABC News and Google+ for Election Night Hangouts – let us know who you are HERE.

Coffee and the Candidates

More than half of American adults drink coffee, almost the same amount who will vote in the coming election. So what better way to gauge the mood of the electorate than by asking them, as 7-Eleven has done in each of the past four cycles, to submit a "vote" by picking either a Red (for Romney) or Blue (for Obama) cup for their morning brew. In the first three "campaigns," the 7-Election results have correctly predicted the real-life winner. In 2004 and 2008, the "Coffee Cup Poll" numbers have come within a percentage point of the candidates' final popular vote tally.

Signs point to: Obama. The blue cups lead this year's race by a commanding 59-41 percent margin.

Breaking Up (With Democratic Presidents) Is Hard to Do

If Mitt Romney is elected the 45th president of the United States next week, he will become just the second Republican to unseat a Democratic president since Grover Cleveland sent Benjamin Harrison house-hunting in 1888.

This historical deficit was first pointed out by Romney primary foe Rick Santorum during a March interview with CNN. Ronald Reagan, who defeated incumbent Jimmy Carter in 1980, is the only Republican in 124 years to pull it off.

Signs point to: Obama. Romney as Reagan? Obama as Carter? That's a tough sell.

It's In The Stars

To paraphrase Shakespeare: The signs lie not in our stars, but in ourselves.

But if you're tired of reading polls and still curious, check out what the stars are saying:

"A survey on politicalastrologyblog.com, a non-partisan astrology blog dedicated to politics, shows 31 top astrologers' agreeing that President Obama's astrological chart favors his winning re-election, compared with 14 astrologists' concluding that Romney's chart shows he will win.

Three of the astrologers who looked at both men's charts have refused to predict a winner at all, calling the election 'too close to call.'

But one thing on which all the astrologists can agree is that the election is going to be a nail-biter, and we might not know the outcome for days, possibly weeks, after voting ends. Political analysts who've looked at polls of likely voters, swing states and early voting say the same thing."

Signs point to: Obama, but it might take a while.

The Young Folks

President Obama won 66 percent of the under-30 vote in 2008. He should win the demographic again in 2012 – the Democrat usually does – but there are some serious question marks this year. Just as important as the margin of victory, if not more, is turnout. Can the president get his supporters out of class and work or off the couch to deliver those much-needed ballots on (and before) Election Day? We'll be watching.

Signs point to: Toss-up! New polls show Romney has narrowed the gap from 2008, but Obama still leads by a significant margin.

Size Matters

Of the last 15 men elected president, dating back to 1920, 11 have stood taller than their vanquished foe. The 5-foot-11 1/2 George W. Bush is the only American president to defeat a taller opponent on two occasions. Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon (in his 1972 race) and Calvin Coolidge, elected in 1928, are the only other outliers.

Signs point to: Romney, by an inch. The Republican stands 6-foot-2 to Obama's 6-foot-1. Another bad sign for Obama: Neither of the two Democratic incumbents to take on a taller Republican were able to keep their keys to the White House. Jimmy Carter (5-foot-9 ½) was beaten out by Ronald Reagan (6-foot01) in 1980 and, 140 years earlier, Martin Van Buren (5-foot-6) came up short against challenger William Henry Harrison (5-foot-8).

Cross Tabulation For The Win

No president since LBJ has won re-election without having held a Gallup-measured job approval rating of at least 49 percent in the spring before the November election. Those who failed to crack that barrier -- Gerald Ford, Carter, and Bush 41 -- topped out at 43 percent. Obama had a 47 percent approval rating in May.

Signs point to: Toss-up! Obama splits the difference. His job approval did not reach the LBJ level, but it beat out Ford, Carter, and Bush. Contrived records are, after all, made to be broken.

Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
Share
Copy
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers at the George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston stopped a would be smuggler from bringing nearly 7 ounces of cocaine into the country in tamales, Aug. 22, 2014.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
Real Housewife Phaedra Parks Lists Home in Suburban Atlanta
Real Housewives of Atlanta star, Phaedra Parks, has listed her 4,000-square-foot home with 5 bedrooms and 6 baths for $340,900.
In this image from video posted on Facebook, courtesy of the George W. Bush Presidential Center, former President George W. Bush participates in the ice bucket challenge with the help of his wife, Laura Bush, in Kennebunkport, Maine.
(Courtesy George W. Bush Presidential Center/AP)