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Flying Pumpkins, Bushy Eyebrows and Other Ways to Pick a Winner

Embarrassed that election day’s exit polls sent them on a giddy wild goose chase, many journalists and bloggers are looking for more reliable ways to predict election outcomes. We offer this scorecard of a few tried and (occasionally) true techniques.

Econometrics

Yale professor Ray Fair’s complicated mathematical formula uses such factors as inflation and economic growth to calculate the popular vote. He nailed five of the previous six elections.

Prediction: Bush, 57%.

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Analysis: Scientific analysis has its place. But it’s more fun to base forecasts on candidate height (taller usually wins), fashion trends (shorter skirts bode well for Democrats) and wine ratings (a year of good grapes favors Democrats).

Space alien endorsement

In the pages of America’s most trusted supermarket tabloid -- the Weekly World News -- extraterrestrials have a perfect track record of endorsements, including Bill Clinton in 1992 and 1996, George W. Bush in 2000 and Arnold Schwarzenegger in California’s recall vote.

Prediction: “Four More Years for Bush!” (Nov. 1 issue)

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Analysis: Bush’s effort to reach out to “illegal aliens” apparently paid off.

Halloween mask sales

The presidential candidate whose rubbery likeness rings up the most sales wins the election. The formula has worked since 1980, according to buycostumes.com.

Prediction: Bush 53%, Kerry 47%.

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Analysis: Maybe if Frankenstein monster masks had been included in John Kerry’s total, he would’ve outsold Bush, thereby changing history.

Cookie cook-off

Family Circle magazine asks readers to choose which candidate’s wife has the tastiest cookie recipe. Since 1992, the winning wife’s husband has gone on to capture the White House.

Prediction: Laura Bush’s oatmeal chocolate-chunk recipe whomped Teresa Heinz Kerry’s pumpkin-spice cookies, 67% to 33%.

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Analysis: Democrats should have insisted that all recipes be ketchup-based.

The eyebrow effect

The candidate with the shaggiest eyebrows has lost the popular vote every time since 1988.

Prediction: A survey by GroomingLounge.com said Kerry had the worst “eyebrows of mass destruction.” Advantage: Bush.

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Analysis: What’s next? Election forecasts based on candidate nasal hair? Earwax buildup?

Psychic dogs

In July 2000, the clairvoyant canines of Sylvester Stallone’s mother telepathically told her Al Gore would lose by “a couple hundred votes.” In 2003, they correctly predicted Schwarzenegger would handily win California’s recall.

Prediction: Bush, by a margin of 15%.

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Analysis: Their record remains untarnished, but the dogs might consider asking that Yale guy for math tutoring.

Alphabet soup

Since 1824, no president whose first name starts with the letter G (or J) has been elected to a second term.

Prediction: Bye-bye George.

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Analysis: Based on long-standing precedent, Democrats should sue to overturn Bush’s victory.

The pigskin factor

The fate of the Washington Redskins’ football team in its final home game before election day determines which candidate wins. If the Redskins are victorious, so is the incumbent party. If they lose, the incumbent party falls. This indicator has correctly forecast every presidential race since 1936.

Prediction: Green Bay 28, Washington 14 (Bush loses).

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Analysis: The White House has a clear obligation to demand that the NFL reverse the game’s outcome.

Gourd flinging

In Statesville, N.C., pumpkins dressed as Kerry, Bush, John Edwards and Dick Cheney were launched from catapults under the theory that the jack-o'-lanterns traveling the farthest would foretell the winner of the presidential race.

Prediction: The Bush and Cheney pumpkins flew farther than the Kerry and Edwards gourds.

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Analysis: How about catapulting the real candidates into a pumpkin patch?

Futures betting

A political version of the stock market, in which online “investors” trade shares of each candidate. In the previous four elections, traders reportedly came within 1.5% of the real voting margins.

Prediction: Bush. No, Kerry. No, Bush.

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Analysis: Promising, but on election day, when early (and ultimately misleading) exit poll results were leaked on the Internet, Kerry’s rating soared. For now, space aliens and psychic dogs seem the way to go.

Sources: Associated Press, Houston Chronicle, National Post, slate.com, Newark Star-Ledger.

-- Compiled by Roy Rivenburg


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