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Superstitions

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Obama: Excuse to Shoot Hoops?
Obama’s only superstition developed enough over the primaries for his campaign to schedule around it. “We realized that we had played basketball before Iowa and before South Carolina. We didn't play basketball before New Hampshire and Nevada. And so now, we've made a clear rule that on Election Day, I have to play basketball,’’ Obama told Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes in February. (Which is pretty convenient, given that Obama has little time for his favorite hobby on the campaign trail.) Obama also carries a few lucky charms around: “a bracelet belonging to a soldier deployed in Iraq, a gambler’s lucky chit, a tiny monkey god and a tiny Madonna and child,” as Time has reported. And he indulges others people’s superstitions: Obama’s communications director, Robert Gibbs, apparently buys into a southern idea that eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day brings good luck. So on January 1, 2008, as The Wall Street Journal reported, Gibbs had a staffer fetch a can from an Iowa grocery store. “I like black-eyed peas,” Obama said, “but I don’t understand.’’ Gibbs told him it was for good luck, and according to the Journal, “Obama dug in without another word.”

McCain: Wow. Just Wow…
“Am I superstitious? I'm that,” Mr. McCain once told the Washington Times in what can only be called a vast understatement. It probably all started when he was a fighter pilot, part of a group known for its superstitions. McCain had an exact ritual before each takeoff: “I had flown five bombing runs over North Vietnam without incident, and I preferred that all pre-flight tasks be performed in the same order as for my previous missions, believing an unvarying routine portended a safe flight,” he wrote in Faith of my Fathers. Since then, McCain’s notions have only grown. Newsweek’s Jonathan Alter claims that were the Arizona senator elected, “McCain would be the most superstitious president since FDR.” One wonders how he keeps track of all his lucky charms: A feather from a tribal leader, compass, flattened penny, nickel, 1976 bicentennial quarter, laminated four-leaf clover, pair of shoes, rubber band, sweater, hotel room, and “pouch of sacred stones” have all been reported as charms. Then there are the things he believes bring bad luck—grabbing a salt shaker from someone (general bad luck) and throwing a hat on a bed (which could cause a death in the household). Some hats are lucky, though. The Boston Globe reported that Cindy McCain noticed media adviser Mark McKinnon wearing a “black felt cowboy hat” on “the nights when he had prepped McCain for a strong debate performance and when the campaign carried New Hampshire.” Subsequently, when McKinnon couldn’t travel to events, the campaign borrowed the hat and “aides took turns wearing it.” McCain also has primary-day rituals, like watching a movie “before the vote is counted,” sleeping and getting up on the same side of the bed, and being with “lucky friend” Steve Dart, as the Washington Post reported in 2000. Ribs and pulled pork are lucky pre-debate foods. Rain is lucky weather. McCain won’t speculate on the future because it’s “in direct violation of my superstitious tenets,” he told reporters in February; if anybody in the campaign says something optimistic, practically everyone knocks on wood. He began the last New Hampshire primary the same way he began the first in 2000, returning “to the same venues he visited,” “surrounded by many of the same New Hampshire aides, telling many of the same jokes,” the New York Times wrote in January. “It’s superstition,” McCain admitted. And it’s taken pretty seriously—the Washington Post wrote that when the lucky feather and lucky compass disappeared (at different times), there was panic until they were recovered.


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