Biden Meets Bubba: The Potential Effect of College Football on the 2020 Presidential Election

Spirited Reasoners recall the (allegedly) humorous correlation printed from time to time regarding Super Bowl winners and presidential elections. It goes like this: Every election year since 2004, a Republican wins the White House whenever the team representing the AFC (American Football Conference) wins the Super Bowl. Conversely, a Democrat wins whenever a team representing the NFC (National Football Conference) wins that year’s Super Bowl. So, according to that rule, Donald Trump should coast to victory in 2020 based on the fact that the Kansas City Chiefs (representing the AFC) beat the San Francisco Forty Niners in this year’s Super Bowl.

Spirited Reasoners will observe, however, that this magical correlation only works if you start the string in 2004. A Republican, George W. Bush, captured the White House in 2000 notwithstanding victory by an NFC team in that year’s Super Bowl. (No fair arguing that the correlation actually worked in 2000 based on the fact that Gore received more popular votes than Bush. If you use that line of reasoning then you have to say Hillary Clinton beat Donald Trump in 2016, because she also won the popular vote. But the 2016 Super Bowl winner was an AFC team.) So much for that silly rule.

Here, though, is an approach more geared toward the gray matter of Spirited Reasoners. Although it’s also geared toward the outcome of this year’s football season, it actually carries with it more than a small grain of truth.

I call it the “Bubba Rule.” 

Two factors are in play:

The first involves the fact that millions of Trump supporters still believe COVID-19 concerns are overblown and based on a Democratic Party hoax. Many of these people live in rural parts of the nation that remain untouched by major outbreaks of the disease. They also get their news from echo chambers that remind them on a daily basis that masks and social distancing amount to violations of their constitutional rights.

The second involves the fact that many of these same people love to watch college football every fall. In fact, their love of football, and their favorite team, far outweigh all other values in their lives, even the suffering of hundreds of thousands of Americans whose loved ones have lost their lives to COVID-19. (If you doubt this claim, I refer you to the Alabama bride who made the mistake of scheduling her wedding on the Saturday of the “Iron Bowl,” the annual rivalry game between Auburn University and the University of Alabama.) Many of these fans prefer college football over pro football because the nearest college town is much closer—geographically speaking—than the nearest NFL franchise. (In southern states, older fans grew up at a time when the only NFL teams were located up north.)

So, here’s the Bubba Rule:

If this year’s college football season proceeds through the months of September and October without major disruption, then Donald Trump will gain a major advantage. Why? Because Bubba will be happy. He can sit at home in his man cave and watch college football without giving COVID-19 a second thought. After all, it was just a Democratic Party hoax.

If, on the other hand, important games—especially rivalry games—cannot be played because of COVID-19 concerns, then Bubba will be unhappy. He will suddenly, perhaps for the first time, feel directly (and negatively) impacted by the COVID-19 virus. How could President Trump allow such a thing to happen?