Redskins Rule

Redskins Rule Election Predictor: Obama’s Going to Lose the Election

The Redskins Rule, which predicted 17 of the last 18 presidents, says Romney will win. By Michael Solomon.

Forget all the polls. Ignore Nate Silver. Just trust the Redskins Rule: Mitt Romney will be the next president of the United States.

Since 1940, the Redskins Rule has correctly predicted the outcome of the presidential election 17 of 18 times. Simply put, the rule states that if the Washington Redskins win their last home game before the presidential election, the incumbent party will retain the White House. If the Redskins lose, the non-incumbent party wins. (The rule was, briefly, a plot point in Season One of Mad Men—even if Pete Campbell scoffed at its accuracy during the 1960 election.)

Going into Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, the Redskins (who represent Obama) were favored to win by 3 points—roughly the same spread the president has in Ohio, depending on whose poll you believe. And most football pundits picked them to win. Sound familiar?

Well, Washington lost to Carolina, 21-13—which means that if the Redskins Rule holds true this year, Romney will be elected on Tuesday.

Or does it?

After all, the Redskins Rule was only correct 17 of 18 times. What about that one year it was off? Let’s look at the replay: In 2004, the Redskins lost their final home game to the Green Bay Packers. According to the Redskins Rule, George W. Bush, the incumbent president, should have lost the White House to John Kerry. But he didn’t.

Steve Hirdt, the executive vice president of the Elias Sports Bureau, is the man credited with discovering the Redskins Rule. An expert statistician, Hirdt looked for an explanation for this anomaly—and found one. In 2000, Hirdt reasoned, Al Gore won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College, reversing the polarity of the rule. In other words, Hirdt argued: “Redskins Rule 2.0 established that when the popular vote winner does not win the election, the impact of the Redskins game on the subsequent presidential election gets flipped. So, with that, the Redskins’ loss in 2004 signaled that the incumbent would remain in the White House.”

OK, so what’s the bottom line on Tuesday?

If the general election follows the Redskins Rule, Washington’s loss means Romney will win the White House. For Redskins Rule 2.0 to apply, Obama would have had to have lost the popular vote four years ago—which he didn’t. So it’s over, right?

Of course not. For one thing, the Redskins Rule reveals correlation, not causation. For another, as Yogi Berra famously taught us, it ain’t over ’til it’s over. And Yogi, you will recall, won 10 World Series with the Yankees. Which brings us to the World Series Rule.

According to this theory of presidential prognostication, when an American League team wins the World Series, a Republican will win the White House. If a National League team wins, it’s good news for the Democrats. How accurate is this correlation? It was perfect from 1952 to 1976, and in the 18 elections covered by the Redskins Rule, the World Series Rule applied 13 times, or more than 72 percent.

And this year? The San Francisco Giants, a National League team, won the World Series, which means Obama should win reelection.

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Which brings us to Redskins Rule 3.0...