Will Sox, Stocks Tip Election Scales?

John Kerry's campaign insists the Democrat will keep cheering his hometown Boston Red Sox to World Series victory, curse or no curse.

The curse of the Bambino?

No, not THAT curse. Kerry is defying a folk legend -- sometimes incorrect -- that a World Series victory by an American League baseball team like the Red Sox forecasts GOP triumph on Election Day.

"It's a new century, and John Kerry believes it's a fresh start," says Michael Meehan, a Kerry-Edwards campaign spokesman. "The Red Sox will win the World Series, and he'll win the White House."

Wrong, according to Halloween masks, soda cups, bobblehead dolls, cookies, hair and economic models. So far, all suggest Kerry is doomed to fall to President Bush.

Still, Kerry has a pumpkin poll and stock results on his side. And, despite the broader World Series trend, the Red Sox and Democrat Woodrow Wilson both prevailed the last times the Red Sox made the World Series in presidential election years -- way back in 1912 and 1916.

But just as Kerry will root for the Sox no matter what, Republicans don't fear the curse of Wilson. After all, most serious pollsters and political thinkers simply don't believe in the predictive power of sports and gourds.

"All these things are silly," says Tom Mann, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. "It turns out you can find any number of bizarre events that tend to coincide with victorious candidates. It's all a fun little effort -- and all absolutely irrelevant to the election."

The campaigns mostly agree.

"They're fun and they're interesting to look over, and certainly provide a break sometimes from scientific polls," says Brian Jones, a Bush-Cheney spokesman. "But ultimately, it's not pumpkins, bobblehead dolls and the state of professional sports teams that will decide the election."

‘The Only Poll That Matters’

However, with most serious polls still showing a race too close to call, even the campaigns are leaving wiggle room for the folk legends.

"The only poll that matters is the one on Election Day," jokes Meehan, the Kerry-Edwards spokesman, "and, of course, the winner of the Packers-Redskins game."

The Oct. 31 matchup is the Washington Redskins' last home game before the election, and since the team has existed its last home game has perfectly predicted the outcome of the presidential election. Sixteen times, a win by the Redskins has preceded a win by the incumbent party and a loss has forecast a win by the challenger.

"The Redskins rule has proven to be a more reliable leading indicator of who's going to be elected president than the popular vote," says Steve Hirdt, executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau, who discovered the pattern before a 2000 Monday Night Football matchup between the Redskins and the Tennessee Titans.

Democrat Al Gore tempted fate that year by successfully rooting for his home state team, the Titans. He ultimately lost the state of Tennessee and the entire election -- something Hirdt foresaw even before Florida's vote was resolved.

"Through all the indecision, litigation and disputes of the subsequent five weeks, my belief was that this question had been asked and answered," Hirdt said. "The Redskins lost, and therefore the Democrats lost."

Keys to the White House?

Never again, the Democrats seem to say.

"We're pulling very hard for the Packers on the week before the election," Meehan says, though he added Kerry's favorite team remains the New England Patriots.

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