Redskins Rule:How football outcomes predict the presidential election

Is it all over for President Obama because the Washington Redskins lost on Sunday? How the Redskins do the Sunday before Election Day almost always predicts the presidential outcome.

Charles Dharapak/AP
President Obama is a big fan of his hometown Chicago Bears. Here he’s accepting a jersey from former Bears head coach Mike Ditka. Not that he’s superstitious, but on Sunday he should have been rooting for the Washington Redskins.

Like so much else in the 2012 presidential race, neither President Obama nor Mitt Romney will make a clean sweep of some of America’s most curious political indicators: the outcome of professional and college football games.

Mr. Obama has help from college pigskin, with victories by the University of Alabama and Florida State. But Mr. Romney laid claim to the longest-running predictor when the Washington Redskins lost to the Carolina Panthers on Sunday afternoon.
 
The Redskins Rule, as it’s known, goes like this: If the Redskins win on the Sunday before Election Day, the party that won the popular vote in the prior election will win the Electoral College in the next election. If they lose, the party out of power will triumph. 
 
Back to 1940, the Redskins have been won nine times before Election Day – and the incumbent party is 9-0 in those years. The nine times the Redskins came up short, the party out of power is 8-1 (the only outlier is the 2004 election, where the Redskins lost to the Green Bay Packers but President George W. Bush defeated Sen. John Kerry).
 
But the pros don’t have a monopoly on presidential prediction. In college football, a Democratic president’s best friend is the University of Alabama. In election years since 1984, the winner of the matchup between the Crimson Tide and the Louisiana State University Tigers (playing for the GOP) has predicted the presidential race every four years. 
 
Alabama, the nation’s perennial football powerhouse in recent years and the top team in the country this year, squeaked by fifth-ranked LSU 21-17 in a marquee prime time matchup Saturday night. 
 
And then there’s the Florida State-Miami predictor that holds sway in only one state – but because of the Sunshine State’s centrality to Electoral College math, it may as well hold the key to the election this year. 
 
Since 1988, as MSNBC anchor Chuck Todd originally pointed out, the winner of the game between the Seminoles (Democrats) and the Hurricanes (Republicans) corresponded with the candidate who would go on to win Florida. On Oct. 21, Florida State went into Miami and came away with a 33-20 victory. 
 
While Florida State, then ranked 12th in the country and now up to the ninth best team in college football, wasn’t an underdog when they came to South Beach, an Obama victory in Florida would be a slight upset. 
 
Currently, polls from Florida show a very even contest. Nevertheless, many election prediction models and prediction markets point toward a slight edge for Romney there.

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