One of the best election predictors has been the Weekly Reader, which polls children ages 9 and up. The survey has proved accurate in every presidential election since 1956. Bush beat Kerry with the kiddies 65 percent to 33 percent. The Weekly Reader said 327,000 youngsters in all 50 states voted. Two other kid polls -- children's publisher Scholastic and in-school TV network Channel One -- gave Bush slimmer margins of victory. Pollsters knock the methodology of these polls, but they can't argue with history.
The Bellwether States
Ohio is probably the most famous bellwether state. No Republican since the Civil War has won the White House without carrying Ohio. The polls are essentially tied in the Buckeye state. New Mexico, since becoming a state in 1912, has picked the winning candidate for president every time, with two exceptions: Gerald R. Ford in 1976 and Al Gore in 2000. The polls there are within the margin of error, too.
It's a Horror Show
Presidential candidate Halloween mask sales have been an accurate predictor of elections going back to 1980. As of Monday, Bush's mask has outsold Kerry's mask 55 percent to 45 percent, according to the BuyCostumes.com Presidential Mask Election Predictor.
The betters in online futures markets are putting their money on the incumbent. According to Time Magazine this week, "The major exchanges -- the Iowa Electronic Markets and Intrade -- have, on average, given Bush about a 60 percent chance of winning since September. While some say the markets are too small to be clairvoyant (only $8 million has been traded in the Bush contract at Dublin-based Intrade, the largest market) they have impressive records. Since 1988, the Iowa exchange's average error in presidential races has been less than 1.5 percentage points -- compared with more than 2 points among major polls, says Forrest Nelson, a founder of the exchange."
Which Way Will the Cookie Crumble?
Earlier this month, Laura Bush's oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies triumphed over Teresa Heinz Kerry's pumpkin spice cookies in the Family Circle magazine cookie bake-off. In the contest, the magazine posted the two recipes on its Web site and asked readers to vote on their favorite. The husband of the readers' choice has gone on to win in the three presidential elections since 1992.
Oy Vey! It's Confusing!
I offer this advice: Forget what the polls say. This race is perhaps the least predictable in recent memory, for any number of reasons -- a jump in first-time voters and early voting to name at least two.
The war in Iraq could turn out to be the ultimate complicating factor. Sure, voters typically don't give their wartime presidents pink slips. But no wartime president has seen an election year quite like this one, where his rationale for war has evaporated under scrutiny of whether Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Even Fair, the Yale economist, acknowledges that the war issue could render his economic model obsolete this year.
So there you have it. I hope I've given you enough information to join your office pool on the Nov. 2 outcome with more confidence than I have in predicting a winner.