Commentary: Prognosticating the presi-dential winner without science

By Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

As a longtime political scientist, it is the objective of my discipline to identify, explain and, ultimately, predict based on patterns and regularities in political phenomena.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff

However, the urge to read the tea leaves using nonscientific methods usually becomes overwhelming during the general election period of the quadrennial presidential race. Accordingly, the list below applied to the 2020 campaign includes some uncannily accurate predictors of recent presidential winners, while others are seemingly off every cycle.

Nonetheless, they are all tongue-in-cheek fun.

• Better hair: Donald Trump.

• Taller: Trump.

• Shorter name: Tied.

• Military veteran: Neither served, so tied.

• Education: Master of Business Administration versus law degree, so tied.

• Washington Football Team rule (If the team wins its final home game prior to the election, the incumbent president wins): On Oct. 25, Washington beat the Dallas Cowboys, 25-3, so Trump.

• Major League Baseball World Series winner (National League winner means Democrat elected): Joe Biden.

• Campaign finances (who has more?): Biden.

• Incumbent impeached?: Yes, Trump was impeached by the House earlier this year, so Biden.

• Larger home state electoral vote (Florida versus Delaware): Trump.

• Midterm turnover of one/both houses of Congress?: Yes, the House in 2018 went from Republican to Democratic control, so Biden.

• Which party wins in presidential election year ending in 0? (Republicans have 4-2 advantage since 1900): Trump.

• Going for four straight two-term presidents (there have only been two cases of three straight two-termers): Biden.

• Debate performance: The first one was a debacle for both; the vice presidential debate was tied; the second presidential debate was tied, so tied.

• Percentage of incumbent first-term victories: Popular vote was under 50% for Trump, so Biden.

• Superpower preference: Russia wants Trump, but China favors Biden, so tied.

• Los Angeles Lakers basketball team in NBA Finals: Yes, they won it all, and this is said to benefit the incumbent, so Trump.

• Oscars method (something based on this year’s movies): Biden.

• Shorter duration in public office: Trump.

• Current unemployment: unfortunately high due to pandemic, though has been coming down, so Biden.

• Veto overrides against incumbent president: eight vetoes by Trump with no overrides, so Trump.

• 7-Eleven cups, Halloween masks, Scholastic poll of students, and Chinese mystic monkey (all ways to measure presidential preference): results still pending.

Of course, even scientific polls can be flawed, as was apparent in 2016. When all else fails, a Kennedy half-dollar coin can always be flipped.

Happy day-after Election Day 2020.

Dr. Samuel B. Hoff is a George Washington Distinguished Professor Emeritus of history and political science at Delaware State University. A nine-time presidential candidate, he has taught and published on the American presidency.