For the Historical Record


Historical statistics can sometimes tell us a great deal about tendencies in upcoming elections, often with eerie levels of accuracy. They also can be entertaining and provide an amusing coincidental context with which to frame the prospects of particular candidates. Below are two historical arguments for the general election winner; one predicts Bush, while the other says Kerry. We will leave it to our faithful readers to decide which will continue to bat 1.000 after November 2.

Our first trend comes courtesy of Tim Farley of Pittsburg, Calif. and Jeremy Plant of State College, Penn. They informed the Crystal Ball of the “Four Letter Name – One Term” curse, which to date has prevented all presidents with surnames of four letters from serving a second term. George H. W. Bush was the most recent victim of this rampant electoral killer in 1992; Gerald Ford fell prey to it in 1976; William Taft was swallowed whole in 1912; and in 1848 James K. Polk may have given birth to the curse when he decided not even to try for another four years in the White House. Among superstitious types, this bodes well for John Kerry.

On the other side, modern incumbent presidents beginning with Dwight Eisenhower who have seen no serious opposition in their party’s primary have a perfect record in securing a second term. Essentially unopposed winners include: Ike, Johnson, Nixon, Reagan, and Clinton. Opposed incumbents who lost or dropped out of the race for a second full term include Johnson (the second time around), Ford, Carter, and G. H. W. Bush. With George Bush the younger having seen no serious opposition in his march to the GOP nomination this year, this omen is a favorable one. Which will turn out to be the more powerful predictor? Only the coming months will tell, but the Crystal Ball will do its best to bring things into focus for our loyal readers.