With the presidential candidates in the neighborhood for their second debate — Hofstra University on Long Island isn’t far away — let’s explore national politics and the Yankee Connection. This is relatively good news for President Obama and not-so-cheery tidings for Mitt Romney.
Clyde Haberman offers his take on the news.
In the modern era, defined for these purposes as having begun in 1952, we have had 15 national elections. The Yankees made it to the postseason a disproportionate number of times: in 9 of those 15 presidential years. For the most part, when they washed out in the postseason, the Democratic candidate won the November election. When they triumphed, so did the Republican.
The exceptions to this pattern were 1980, 1996 and 2004. Still, the connection is hard to ignore. It has been especially strong when the team made it to the World Series, an achievement that those of us who grew up in the Bronx during the era of Mickey and Whitey and Yogi used to accept as our birthright.
The Yankees have been in seven presidential-year World Series going back to 1952. No other team comes close to them in this regard. Except for 1996, every time they won the Series, the Republican candidate won the White House. Every time they lost, the Democrat won.
You can look it up, as Casey Stengel used to say.
The Yanks were triumphant in 1952 and 1956. So was the Republican presidential nominee, Dwight D. Eisenhower.
They lost in 1960 and 1964. So did the Republicans Richard M. Nixon and Barry Goldwater. Those were the years of the Democrats John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson.
They lost the Series again in 1976, the year the Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter beat the Republican incumbent, Gerald R. Ford.
They won once more in 2000 (defeating the crosstown Mets), and that victory was followed by the Republican George W. Bush’s prevailing over the Democrat Al Gore. Yes, Mr. Bush owed even more that year to the United States Supreme Court than he did to the Yankees. But this is not the forum to rehash old wars about the popular vote and about who suffered because they kept hanging some guy named Chad down in Florida. It was Mr. Bush who took the oath of office the following January.
As we said, the lone outlier to the pattern was 1996, when the Yankees won their first World Series in 18 years. That same year, the Democrat Bill Clinton beat the Republican Bob Dole, aided in part by the third-party candidacy of H. Ross Perot, who probably drained more votes from Mr. Dole than he did from Mr. Clinton.
So why should any of this make Mr. Obama feel better about his chances on Nov. 6? Simple: Have you looked at the sports pages, and even the front pages?
The president has taken it on the chin for the better part of two weeks, pummeled by the political world’s nattering classes for not being peppy enough in his first debate against Mr. Romney. The way some have carried on and on, you’d think we were electing the next American Idol, not the nation’s chief executive.
But no matter how much of an off-night Mr. Obama may have had, it is nothing compared with the miserable performance that the Yankees have given in this postseason. They are lucky to have made it this far, into a second round of play against the Detroit Tigers.
They’ve lost the incomparable Derek Jeter to a broken ankle. They’ve wasted splendid contributions by their starting pitchers with displays of hitting prowess worthy of the Bad News Bears before they got game. At this rate, the only way the overpaid Alex Rodriguez, the underperforming Robinson Cano, the bewildered Curtis Granderson and the aptly named Nick Swisher will ever get hits is if they’re allowed to put the ball on a tee.
As a result, the Yankees are down two games to none against Detroit, with the unappealing prospect Tuesday night of facing a fellow named Justin Verlander, perhaps the best pitcher in the game. The outlook isn’t brilliant for the New York nine this day.
And that is why Mr. Obama may want to breathe a little easier about his own chances, and Mr. Romney to start worrying.
What’s that you say — these are all coincidences?
Sure, you can believe that if you want.
E-mail Clyde Haberman: [email protected]