Following a long, hard-fought campaign for presidential office, Republican candidate Mitt Romney needed one thing to happen Sunday if he hoped to win the election---a loss by the Washington Redskins.
Based on a streak that dates back to 1940, if the Redskins win their last home game before the election, the incumbent party remains in the White House. The streak had been correct every year since 1940, apart from one election in 2004.
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According to The Washington Times,
"It's called the Redskins Rule, and it has an accuracy rate of either 94 or 100 percent depending on how it's applied. Every time the Redskins win their final home game before a presidential election, the candidate representing the incumbent party remains in office. Every time they lose, the incumbent party's candidate loses as well. It's a predictor that has worked in 16 of 17 presidential elections since the Redskins arrived in Washington."
On Sunday, Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers defeated the Redskins 21-13, signaling that Romney would win the election. Obviously President Obama was victorious and was re-elected, so for the second time in 18 elections, the "Redskins Rule" was proven wrong.
The rule was first discovered in 2000 by Steve Hirdt, the executive vice-president of Elias Sports Bureau, while he was working for a Monday night football telecast between the Redskins and the Tennessee Titans.
"I started looking through the Redskins' press guide where they list all the scores in the back," Hirdt said to ESPN Front Row. "I was making a list of the last home game before the election because that was the game we were covering. I tried to align it with the Democrats or the Republicans and then looked at the incumbents."
Hirdt was looking for an interesting angle for the game and stumbled upon the rule by accident.
"I was shocked to see it lined up exactly right, that whenever the Redskins won their last home game prior to the presidential election, the incumbent party retained the White House, and whenever the Redskins lost their last home game prior to the election, the out-of-power party won the White House," said Hirdt.
In 2000, the rule was challenged a bit by the extended battle between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
According to the Washington Times article:
"In 2004, the Redskins lost to the Packers 28-14, suggesting Bush should have lost to John Kerry. Hirdt changed the way the rule is applied to have it refer to the previous winner of the popular vote, not the electoral vote."
So technically the rule has worked in every election---until now.
"I went back and studied the 'Redskins Rule' data and what happened in 2004 was explained in 2000," Hirdt told ESPN's Front Row last week. "Because Al Gore actually won the popular vote in 2000 -- but lost in the Electoral College -- it reversed the polarity of the subsequent election. The opposite of the usual 'Redskins Rule' was true."
President Obama won the election by a decisive margin, keeping the incumbent in the White House with both the popular vote and the electoral vote.
"Redskins Rule 2.0 established that when the popular vote winner does not win the election, the impact of the Redskins' game on the subsequent presidential election gets flipped," said Hirdt. "So, with that, the Redskins' loss in 2004 signaled that the incumbent would remain in the White House."
Although the "Redskins Rule" was proven wrong this year, it is pretty amazing that the wins lined up for so many years.
Hirdt acknowledged in the article to ESPN that the rule would be what he is best known for.
"I'm kind of resigned to the fact that the 'Redskins Rule' will probably be on the second or third paragraph of my obituary," he says, "whenever that may be."