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U.S.: Voters Choose Unusual Ways To Predict Election Winner --> Forget opinion polls. They'll only tell you that today's U.S. presidential election will be too close to call. So how to predict who's going to win? How about looking at the fashionable length of skirts this year? Or whether "Bush" masks outsold "Kerry" masks this Halloween? From hemlines to rubber masks, Americans have many unusual ways of predicting the outcome of their presidential elections.

Prague, 2 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- It's being called the closest fought election in recent history.

Polls show the incumbent, President George W. Bush, and his Democratic challenger, John Kerry, in a statistical dead heat.

But while conventional opinion polls aren't very helpful this time, Americans have plenty of other, non-traditional ways of predicting the winner.

There's the presidential height index. This predicts that the taller candidate will win -- in this case, Kerry, who towers some 10 centimeters over Bush.
Bush masks have apparently been more popular this Halloween than those resembling Kerry.

The height index has been accurate for most recent elections. However, last time, Democrat Al Gore lost to the five-centimeter-shorter George W. Bush.

How about looking at the latest fashion styles? According to this theory, shorter skirts suggest a victory for the Democrats; longer, more conservative hemlines favor the Republicans.

The problem is, there is no discernible trend in skirt lengths this year. And no one has yet come up with an election predictor based on trouser styles.

Conventional wisdom suggests a strong economy favors the incumbent. But a lesser-known election indicator is stock market performance for the one month before the vote.

Apparently, in the last 100 years, the incumbent has lost every time the Dow Jones index fell by 0.5 percent or more in October.

This October, the Dow fell 0.52 percent. So that looks like a good omen for Kerry -- as does our next election predictor: the outcome of a certain American football game.

Since 1936, the last home game before the election of the Washington Redskins football team has accurately predicted the outcome of the vote. If the Redskins win, the incumbent wins. If they lose, the incumbent loses.

So Kerry was in buoyant mood on 31 October, after the Redskins lost at home to the Green Bay Packers. He released a statement after the game saying: "Packers Win -- Kerry's In!"

So far, our non-traditional predictors have pointed to a Kerry victory.

But by one unconventional barometer at least, Bush looks set to win re-election.

Bush masks have apparently been more popular this Halloween than those resembling Kerry.

In elections going back 20 years, the candidate whose likeness has outsold his opponent's has won the White House.

But there's one crucial last detail: sales of Bush masks are higher by only the narrowest of margins.