After Donald Trump's surprising victory over Hillary Clinton four years ago, some people are wary of what the polls are saying about the 2020 election.
Nearly every national poll shows Joe Biden with a hefty lead over Trump. But national presidential polls are equivalent to asking people all over the country to weigh in on who should be mayor of Chicago.
Seventeen battleground states will determine who lands in the White House. It doesn't matter who the majority of Americans want. The Electoral College decides, so a handful of voters in a few states could once again end up picking the winner.
There are several predictors floating around that might give us a sneak peek into what will happen next week. Everything from Halloween masks, coffee cups, first lady cookie recipes and measuring the candidates' heights have been used previously to provide an early indication of who's going to win on Election Day.
Some have impressive records for choosing the winner for several presidential elections running. Trump, however, has thrown some of them off.
The unpredictability of Trump, coupled with the coronavirus pandemic that has thrown the entire country off track, have made some of these unusual methods less reliable than they were in the past. Take them with a grain of salt.
Some observers are even questioning whether historian Allan Lichtman's "13 Keys to the White House" can accurately predict the outcome this year.
Lichtman has correctly predicted every presidential race since Ronald Reagan's re-election in 1984. (There was that one time in 2000, however, when he predicted Al Gore would defeat George W. Bush. But Lichtman insists he was correct since Gore won the popular vote. You can judge for yourself.)
The American University professor says that debates, endorsements, rallies or even political platforms don't determine the winner. Rather, things like scandals, social unrest, charisma and the economy are among the best predictors.
Obviously, Trump has seen an abundance of scandals and social unrest, and the economy is tanking right now — all things that point to defeat. So Lichtman says the next president is going to be Joe Biden.
Halloween masks have long been indicators of a candidate's popularity. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama all outsold their opponents, according to Rubie's Costume Company, the world's largest costume manufacturer.
Four years ago, Trump latex masks outsold Clinton masks. This year, Trump masks are available, but the company didn't stock Biden masks this time. Interpret that however you like.
Then there's ChrisChris the squirrel, of North Charleston, S.C. ChrisChris took over the duties of presidential predictions this year from his deceased father, Gnocchi, who correctly predicted the last three presidential races, according to WCSC-TV.
According to the station, ChrisChris ate seven nuts from a bowl with Trump's name on it and three from Biden's bowl, which made Trump the winner. Just so there would be no mistaking his loyalty in this solidly red state, ChrisChris ate the Biden sign and gnawed on the former vice president's bowl.
Students at Benjamin Franklin Elementary School in New York state have accurately predicted the president since choosing Richard Nixon in a mock election in 1968. Trump messed up their 38-year winning streak, when they chose Clinton over him, 52% to 43%.
The school currently is operating remotely. No word yet on whether absentee ballots will be allowed this year.
There are reports that the political cookies at Lochel's Bakery in Hatboro, Pennsylvania, are flying off the shelves as they do every election year. Sales of the sugar cookies with Biden 2020 written in blue sprinkles and Trump 2020 in red sprinkles are currently being tallied. The bakery has used the treats to correctly determine the outcome of the past three presidential elections.
In Dallas, the Flying Saucer Draught Emporium has used its craft beer sales to accurately predict presidents since 2004. This year, beer drinkers can choose to have the brew served in a tall red glass with Trump's maskless face on it or a blue one with Biden wearing a mask and his signature aviator sunglasses.
The first lady's cookie recipe contest is off this year since the sponsor, Family Circle magazine, ceased publication. The contest predicted five of the past seven elections correctly. The last one ended poorly. The Clinton family's chocolate chip cookie recipe beat Melania Trump's sour cream star cookies in the poll.
Something as fickle as height could end up being the deciding factor. A study by political scientists at Texas Tech University found that Americans are more likely to vote for taller presidential candidates because we equate height with strength. That's good news for Trump, who stands 6 feet 3 inches, compared with Biden's 6 feet.
Those thinking they might be able to look to the stars for answers are out of luck.
While some astrologists, numerologists and psychics have offered various predictions on social media, most are keeping their thoughts to themselves, saying that no one can be 100% correct.
A popular psychic at the Miraval Spa in Tucson, Ariz., predicted Trump's victory in 2016. In her annual New Year's Eve predictions in 2019, she said that Biden would win this year. She also said that Georgia politician Stacey Abrams would be vice president.
One thing they all agree on, though, is that it will take longer than usual to figure out who the winner is. We don't need the stars to tell us that.
Dahleen Glanton is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune.