For Election 2012 prognosis, look to ... Halloween masks?

Right on cue, marketers tap into the Election 2012 horse race to try to boost sales of everything from Halloween masks to coffee. They also sometimes tap into voters' preferences with bizarre accuracy.

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Who needs Gallup and Rasmussen polls when you’ve got Barack Obama and Mitt Romney Halloween mask sales to predict the presidential election? Or if that’s too scary, try coffee-cup sales or pet names.

Yep, every four years marketers have an irresistible chance to tap into the horse race and bring in the bucks. But it seems they also sometimes tap into voters’ preferences with bizarre accuracy.

Halloween is approaching, so let’s start with masks.

According to sales by two big retailers of Halloween costumes, Mr. Obama is on track to win this year, though the race is still tight in a few states.

Spirit Halloween has accurately? predicted the past four presidential elections on the basis of mask sales. Romney and Obama masks sell for $10 to $25. BuyCostumes.com, where you can buy paper masks of the candidates and their running mates for as little as 99 cents, has correctly predicted the past three elections.

Of course, the only ID you need is a credit card, and there’s no monitoring for voter fraud. Buy as many as you’d like, retailers urge, to stack the deck in favor of your candidate.

Or perhaps you don’t care about poll results, and you’d rather buy up masks of your least favorite man for the job so you can vent your frustrations every time you see an attack ad against your guy. (The footnote says about the paper masks on Buy.com, “Eyes can be popped out.”)

As of Thursday, Obama raked in 67 percent of more than 100,000 votes on Spirithalloween.com/Vote, with Mr. Romney taking nearly 33 percent. Write-in candidate Batman had 216 votes. Once it tallies actual sales, the company will release its Presidential Index a few days before the election.

BuyCostumes.com predicted Romney would be the GOP nominee, on the basis of sales of paper masks during the primaries. (Does that mean political junkies like to prepare early for Halloween, or do they have costume balls at the conventions?)

Sales so far at BuyCostumes.com have Obama and Joe Biden ahead by a nose, with 51 percent, compared with Romney and Paul Ryan’s 49 percent. According to this poll, New Hampshire and Montana are the only toss-up states. North Carolina, Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Nevada are Obama/Biden country. Virginia, Ohio, Wisconsin, Michigan, Iowa, and Florida go to Romney/Ryan.

Let's give a shout-out here to John Toole at the Eagle-Tribune in New Hampshire for some good old-fashioned shoe-leather reporting. According to his visits to local costume retailers, the mask race is still too close to call.

If you’re a coffee-drinker, you may have noticed an unscientific poll being conducted at a 7-Eleven store near you. Early voting started Sept. 6 with the availability of Red Romney coffee cups and Blue Obama cups. Voting ends Nov. 6. “7-Election” cup sales have predicted the past three presidential elections.

If the cup trends continue, Obama will get another four years to percolate. His cups have raked in 59 percent of sales to Romney’s 41 percent. There’s no room to be undecided if you want your java.

If you’ve always wondered what it’s like to sip coffee while sitting in the Oval Office contemplating how to be the leader of the free world, or how to be reelected, there’s one other perk in the 7-Eleven campaign. The Mobile Oval bus tour with its Oval Office replication will be making stops in such cities as Reno, Nev., Los Angeles, and Dallas between now and Election Day.

Finally, this one’s for you if you think the election is for the dogs: A new company is trying to get in on the action, but it's taking a more historical approach to presidential popularity. Veterinary Pet Insurance Co. of Brea, Calif., put out a press release this week noting the Top 10 most common presidential names among its database of more than 485,000 insured pets.

Jackson (as in Andrew) is No. 1, with 942 pets named after him. Carter (as in Jimmy) is No. 10 with just 82.

But can’t they give us the pets’ prediction for Election 2012?

VPI doesn’t claim any predictive track record. But it notes that the database includes five pets named “Obama,” 10 named “Barack,” and zero named “Romney” or “Mitt.” Seven pets, however, do go by “Willard,” Romney’s first name. Who knew?

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