Daniel Rubin: Amid a smothering of presidential polls, one is sweet on both candidates

Suffering from poll fatigue? It's understandable. Fifteen new ones came out last Monday alone, and that's just the more reputable ones.

My inbox has been brimming with off-the-wall predictors of presidential electability as well.

Brothers Dayton Berkhimer, 3 and Xander Berkhimer, 5, of Fox Chase, split their votes in the Weinrich Bakery presidential cookie poll. (Dan Rubin / Staff)

The favorite, so far, has to be CafePress, makers of custom T-shirts, which announced the other day that its classic Pro-Obama thongs were outselling Pro-Romney unmentionables by a 4-1 clip.

This, of course, was not a scientific survey, and it's difficult to know whether the sort of person who would wear the prez on their person would even wake up in time to hit the voting booth.

A Harvard doctoral student shared a more serious methodology in a New York Times piece earlier this month - one that he argued captured the sort of voter who might be missed by pollsters trying landlines at dinner time.

He analyzed Google searches. Among the searches for Romney's Mormon underwear and Obama jokes was the news that the president is winning in cyberspace queries.

Well, I have one more informal survey to report, and for this I traveled, as I did four years ago, to Weinrich's Bakery in Willow Grove, that classic Germany konditorei, which since 1984 has been making cookies that bear the names and, most recently, the likenesses of each presidential candidate.

The appetites of Weinrich's customers are usually a reliable bellwether of how the nation will vote. In Weinrich polls, Ronald Reagan rolled Walter Mondale, George H.W. Bush bested Mike Dukakis, Bill Clinton crushed Bush, then George W. Bush out-sold both Al Gore and John Kerry, and Barack Obama trumped John McCain.

The only anomaly came in 1996, when the bakery's patrons were inexplicably sweet on Bob Dole.

So how are things looking from behind the counter at Weinrich's?

"Want another Obama in the bag?" are the words I hear, walking through the door of the Easton Road establishment. It's noon, two days after the third and final presidential debate, and the line of customers snakes to the door.

At the head of the line are brothers Dayton and Xander Birkhimer of Fox Chase. Dayton is 3, his brother 5. The elder got to pick first and chose a Mitt Romney model - a butter cookie six inches across and laced with a red, white and blue image of the smiling contender.

Naturally, his brother chose an Obama butter cookie.

"They're brothers, so they can't agree on anything," explained their mother, Alyssa Birkhimer, who describes her husband and herself as supporters of the president.

You might wonder if this makes for sure polling. The second in line was Maria Malpezzi of Warrington, who stood with her 4-year-old son, Ethan, and ordered a cookie for each candidate.

They are for her parents, she explained. Nearly 80, both are set in their ways. Different ways. Her mom will vote for Obama, her dad for Romney. "We went to Disneyworld recently, and my mom saw a Romney sticker on a scooter. She ripped it off! My dad stuck it back on."

It's possible these four votes will be washed out in the larger tide of bakery patrons who vote with their stomachs.

The tally on the blackboard at the back of the shop showed that the president enjoyed a lead of 2,262 cookies to Romney's 2,185.

Stephen Weinrich, third-generation owner of the 60-year-old business, said Obama has enjoyed a lead since the first day of sales, five weeks ago, but the margin has been closing.

"After the first debate Romney surged," he said, "and after the second debate as well."

The vice presidential debate changed nothing. The last presidential debate slowed Romney's progress.

"But it's very close, unlike four years ago," Weinrich said.

He did notice one difference in the way the cookies moved. The Obamas tended to be sold one at a time, while the Romneys were often bought in large quantities.

 


Contact Daniel Rubin at 215-854-5917, drubin@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @danielrubin or Facebook at http://ph.ly/DanRubin