Politics of Superstitions: Phillies for Obama, Lakers for McCain

Superstions hold Redskins football and candidate height could predict race.

Nov. 2, 2008 — -- With only two days until Americans select their next president, many are going by the polls to predict the election's outcome.

But if you're superstitious, maybe analyzing the candidates' heights or the results of the next Washington Redskins game could suggest whether Barack Obama or John McCain will be the next commander in chief.

Through the years, some pundits have seen correlations between such things and presidential winners.

For example, if you're taking cues from history to determine the next resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., then turn to the World Series. In the past, some see a pattern that when a National League team won, so did the Democratic candidate.

This may explain why Obama was rooting for the now-world champion Philadelphia Phillies.

Actually, the pattern of an American League World Series champ hinting at a Republican winner and a National League champ signaling a Democrat has held true just 60 percent of the time since 1908, the first time the World Series fell on a presidential election year. But American League winners -- the Yankees and Red Sox -- have matched the last two election wins for Bush, a former Major League baseball owner and a big-time fan.

However, Obama's game is basketball -- and there, the superstition indicator is not as promising for him. In eight of the nine seasons the Los Angeles Lakers, or the Minneapolis Lakers before them, have been in the finals in a presidential election year, a Republican has won the White House.

This predictor has been even more accurate when the Lakers won -- with a 5-for-5 correlation to Republican White House victories. This year, however, the Lakers lost, so maybe Obama has a chance -- as in 1964, when the Lakers lost and Democrat Lyndon Johnson defeated Republican Barry Goldwater.

Then there's the idea that in 10 of the last 13 elections, the taller candidate has come out on top. But one towering exception was John Kerry's 2004 loss to President Bush. Though he stood four inches taller than the Texan, it wasn't enough to overcome him in the popular or electoral votes.

If the pattern holds true, then the 6-foot-1 Obama bests McCain on Tuesday. But, there are scenarios besides basketball where McCain can be forecast as the winner.

Some believe the victor will be whichever candidates' face sells the most Halloween masks. If that's the case, and if one accounts for all the Sarah Palin imitators, then the Arizona senator's chances far outweigh Obama's.

But one of the most accurate indicators is how football's Washington Redskins fare in the team's final home game before Election Day. This year, the Redskins host the Pittsburgh Steelers Monday night.

Since 1940, 16 of 17 times, a Redskins win in its last home game before Election Day has corresponded to an incumbent party victory, and a loss has meant a win for the challenging party.

The one exception, however, was in the most recent presidential election, when the Redskins fell to the Green Bay Packers but Bush beat Kerry anyway.

So perhaps the Republican presidential nominee will be rooting for the Redskins with fingers crossed.

"I am superstitious," McCain has said. "I have my lucky penny in hand and all the other paraphernalia that I take with me around the country."