5 Election Day Superstitions

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Just like athletes before a big game, politicians and their camps often have superstitions leading up to big elections.

1. Obama Shoots Hoops

As a big basketball fan, it’s no surprise that Obama likes to hit the hardwood when he can find the time. And there's one day when finding time is absolutely necessary: Election Day. “We made the mistake of not playing basketball once. I can assure you we will not repeat that,” Obama aide Robert Gibbs told the Chicago Sun-Times, referring to the 2008 New Hampshire primary that Hillary Clinton won.

The President worked yesterday’s game in at the Hope Athletic Center in Chicago and called in a little extra help: former Chicago Bulls superstar Scottie Pippen. Pippen was on Obama’s team. They won.

2. James Carville Grosses Out Wife Mary Matalin

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Democratic analyst James Carville had a rather stinky habit when he was the lead strategist during Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. When things seemed to be going well, Carville would refuse to change underwear for several days just to make sure the luck held. He later claimed that although he wore the same pair every day, they visited the washing machine every night.

3. John McCain Catches a Flick

In 2008, McCain’s daughter Meghan told People magazine about her dad’s somewhat surprising superstition: “He always goes to a movie on election day. He usually goes in the early afternoon.”

But that wasn’t the only trick up McCain’s sleeve. He also carried around a lucky penny, nickel, quarter, compass, and feather. He wore lucky rubber-soled L.L. Bean dress shoes and counted on a “lucky food”—barbeque—before every debate. McCain’s strategist said it was in keeping with “the ancient tradition of slaughtering the hog before slaughtering the opponent.”

4. William McKinley’s Flower Power

Nucky Thompson’s got nothing on William McKinley. When McKinley won a Congressional seat in his home state of Ohio in 1876, he was wearing a red carnation. It became his lucky charm after that, one that he thought held luck not only for himself, but anyone he gave it to. McKinley had just given the carnation to a 12-year-old girl named Myrtle moments before he was fatally shot in 1901. Might history have taken a different turn if he had kept his lapel decor? We’ll never know.

5. No Swearing-In on Sundays

Even after they’re elected, some Presidents won’t give up the habits that got them there. In 1849, incoming President Zachary Taylor was scheduled to be sworn in on Sunday, March 4. Believing Sunday to be a holy day, Taylor refused. His vice president, Millard Fillmore, was likewise not sworn in that day. Since James K. Polk’s official last day was Saturday, March 3, some believe that President pro tempore David Atchison was technically president for one day—March 4. Taylor was sworn in on March 5.