George W. Bush, the Republican presidential candidate, only has a slight edge in the latest polls, but he’s top gourd in the battle of the pumpkins.
Asked to choose between 500-pound pumpkins carved to look like Bush and his Democratic opponent, Al Gore, at Altenburg’s Country Gardens in Wisconsin, 1,285 visitors chose Bush and 911 picked Gore. The Bush pumpkin also beat its Gore counterpart 534-341 in an online ballot at the Wisconsin Rapids Area Convention & Visitors Bureau Web site.
Does it matter? Probably not, so the Gore campaign accepts defeat gracefully.
“I don’t think Al Gore wants to be the winner in the hollow-headed competition,” says Juno Cabrera, a Gore campaign spokesman. “I think we’re glad that we’re not. We’ll cede that territory to Gov. Bush.”
With the real polls showing a tight race, the media has taken to considering how skirt lengths, carved pumpkins, coffee cups, sports statistics, Halloween masks and polls of school children might predict the outcome of the presidential race.
Experts in academia and the media agree that many of these offbeat indicators reflect little more than random chance and political superstition. But some concede that a few may have a kernel of truth.
“I’m not sure that gourds are a very promising metric for public opinion research,” says Jonathan Koppell, a political scientist at Yale University. “One thing you have to be aware of is the irony factor. People may pick Bush pumpkins because he’s amusing, but that might not be the key to a presidential election.
“On the other hand,” he adds, “that may be why Jesse Ventura is the governor of Minnesota. If it gets you votes, it gets you votes.”
For the record, Bush has been getting most of the votes — even if at this point they are coming in the form of pumpkin popularity, Halloween mask sales and surveys of second graders.
Flush with confidence such votes bring, the Bush campaign isn’t taking the crack about the hollow-headed pumpkin lying down. It is hitting back on the Halloween mask front:
“I suspect mask makers had to create several different Al Gore masks for each of the different Al Gores we’ve seen on the campaign trail,” says Ray Sullivan, a Bush campaign spokesman.
But seriously. …
“The only thing we put stock in is a trust in the American people to support Gov. Bush’s leadership,” Sullivan says, echoing similar indifference to the oddball indicators voiced by the Gore campaign. “Hemlines and Halloween masks and World Series outcomes are fun, but idle speculation.”
Speculation or not, Bush narrowly won a nationwide beverage poll taken in September by the 7-Eleven convenience store chain. Customers picked Bush cups over Gore cups 21 to 20 percent. However, 59 percent picked the regular, nonpartisan cup, meant to designate a third-party or undecided vote.
And Bush leads the Halloween mask popularity contest by a 57 to 43 percent margin, says John Majdoch, vice president and co-founder buycostumes.com, the Web site measuring its sales for the poll.
Majdoch says retail Halloween mask sales statistics from various sources have correctly predicted every presidential race since 1980, but he concedes there might be some distortion in this year’s results.