Predicting the outcome of the U.S. presidential election is a tough business. Political parties, news agencies and pundits have been sifting through public opinion polls for months, trying to figure out a likely winner.
But no matter how good the calculations, forecasting the future is never a sure thing. For election observers seeking relief from the traditional number crunching, there are plenty of alternatives, so long as you have a sense of humor and a bit of imagination.
7-11 coffee cups
Coffee drinkers who get their caffeine fix at the popular convenience store 7-Eleven have successfully predicted the presidential winner since 2000. The so-called "7-Election
" offers voters, or coffee drinkers in this case, a chance to support their favorite candidate by choosing either a blue cup for President Barack Obama or a red cup for Republican Party challenger Mitt Romney. Regular, "nonpartisan" cups are available for drinkers who can't make up their mind.
The unapologetically unscientific poll has a few different rules than the official election. Coffee drinkers can vote as often as they like, and early voting starts in September. In each of the past three elections, 7-Eleven says more than six million candidate cups were cast.
Who's winning the coffee vote this year? Obama so far has 59 percent of the cups, while Romney has 41 percent in the 34 participating states. Voters who stay up all night watching the results come in on Tuesday might just have to buy an apolitical cup of coffee to stay awake the day after the election.
The presidential election falls just days after Halloween, which means candidate masks are always a popular costume choice for revelers on the American holiday. The online store BuyCostumes.com
says sales of its paper candidates' masks have accurately forecasted the next president of the United States since 2000. Again, this poll isn't scientific. The company's election motto is, "1 mask = 1 vote. This poll can be bought!"
The race is close in the costume poll, but Romney's Republican Party will be happy to see it has 51 percent of mask sales, while Obama has 49 percent.
The Redskins rule
It is football season in the United States, which means millions of Americans are captivated each Sunday and Monday night watching heavyweight players battle it out on the field. Come election time, one football team becomes even more important: the Washington Redskins. The so-called "Redskins rule" suggests if the team wins its last home game before Election Day, the incumbent party will have another turn at the White House. If it loses, the opposition candidate becomes the next president of the United States.
It sounds ridiculous, but the "rule" has proven true for 17 of the past 18 presidential elections, since 1937. If Obama was watching Sunday night's game, he might be a little nervous. The Redskins lost to the Carolina Panthers.
American citizens can't vote until they're 18 years old, but that hasn't stopped young students from choosing their favorite candidate in an informal ballot held by the children's book publisher, Scholastic.
The Scholastic Student Vote
has correctly named the next president in 15 of the past 17 votes, since 1940. This year, the kids have spoken, and they're saying Obama should stay in office. The Democratic nominee won 51 percent of the votes cast by nearly a quarter-million young people across the country. Romney won 45 percent of the, while alternative candidates claimed four percent of the kids' vote.
Astrology isn't a science, but if done well, the reading of celestial charts can often deliver predictions that seem too true to be chance. If that's the case, the planets are aligning for Obama, according to a panel of five astrologists who gathered in New Orleans last May for the international United Astrology Conference
Each of the astrologists used different techniques to come up with their forecast - from reading Indian Vedic charts to studying Aries ingress charts. They all said the president would have a second term. There are, of course, astrologists who are reading the candidates' natal charts differently and predicting a win for Romney
All agree that whoever wins, Election Day and the weeks to follow likely will be a time of chaos and confusion because Mercury goes retrograde November 6, the very same day as the vote. Astrologer Susan Miller writes on her blog
this is not good news.
"I expect legal challenges, calls for recounts, broken voting machines, and a host of other problems with the ballots," Miller writes, noting that the last time Mercury was retrograde during a presidential election was the 2000 contest between George W. Bush and Al Gore.
That election was mired in controversy, with missing ballots, confused voters and problematic voting machines. Ultimately, the Supreme Court chose the winner, naming Bush president.
Whether or not you believe in astrology, lawyers for both Obama and Romney are gearing up for a legal fight in case this year's election is as close as the official political polls