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An election decided on the gridiron?

By Bill Koester
On October 22, 2012

This year's presidential race is, by all accounts, very close. But the battle for the White House won't be over until the Washington Redskins have had their say.

You see, the NFL franchise of Washington, D.C., has a habit of correctly predicting who will be president.  Or so goes the fabled "Redskins Rule."

According to the Rule, if the Redskins win their final home game before the Presidential Election, the party currently in the White House will retain it. If they lose their final home game, then a new party, and president, will move in to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

For example, in 1996, the Redskins won their last home game before Election Day, and President Bill Clinton, a Democrat, won re-election. In 2000, Washington was defeated at home, and George W. Bush, a Republican, became president. Had the Skins won, according to the Rule, Al Gore would have beaten Bush, thus the Democratic Party retaining the presidency.

Okay, maybe this is just one of those sports superstitions you find in every city. In fact, the Rule was broken in 2004, when a Washington loss to the Green Bay Packers suggested a John Kerry victory. Bush was still reelected (Steve Hirdt, who brought the Rule to public awareness, tried to alter it to keep the streak intact by somehow invoking the 2000 Florida recount, but his explanation made previous elections refute the Rule).

Still, prior to 2004, the Rule has an eerily accurate streak dating back to 1940, the very first election year the Redskins called the nation's capital home (Franklin D. Roosevelt won his third term that year).  It also correctly predicted President Obama's victory in 2008.

That's a 17-1 record.  Even if it's a coincidence, that's pretty good.

This year, the Skins' final game at FedExField before Election Day is Nov. 4 against the Carolina Panthers, two days before the country goes to the polls.  According to the Rule, if the home team wins, Barack Obama will get four more years in the Oval Office.  If Carolina pulls out a "W," Mitt Romney will be sworn in as the 45th commander in chief in January.

Despite the energy and excitement that rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III has brought to the Redskins, at the time of print, the team is back below .500 (3-4) after a loss to the New York Giants.  The Panthers are doing worse, though, mired at 1-5 while quarterback Cam Newton seems to be having a sophomore slump.  I'd say Obama has the edge as far as the Rule goes.

Then again, the election could break the rule once more.  It's also possible the game could end in a tie, and Gary Johnson gets elected president.  But I doubt it.

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