I couldn’t help but notice that the upcoming US Presidential elections take place on Tuesday November 6th, 2012 and that this date coincides with the running of the Melbourne Cup in Australia, one of the great thoroughbred horse races of the world, and coincidently won by a horse called “Americain” when last run on Tuesday November 2nd, 2010.

Americain (front), 2010 Melbourne Cup winner; Author: Flamelai (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

The fact that these 2 great sporting events will happen on the same day is too much of a coincidence to leave untouched, hence my need to compare “the race that stops a nation” in Melbourne with “the race that bores half a nation” in the US, as only 56.8% of those eligible turned out to vote in the US Presidential race in 2008.Both are wonderful events on the racing calendar, although the standard of dress is significantly better at the Melbourne Cup in Australia than it is for Election Day in the US.

Woman's hat at Melbourne Cup; Synyan (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

The other obvious major difference is that despite the extremely competitive nature of both events, the lead up to the Melbourne Cup focuses heavily on the strengths of the contenders and the only mud-slinging comes from that kicked up by galloping hooves on the day, whilst the US Election Daybuild up seems to focus totally on the negative elements of the candidates and the mud-slinging comes from every quarter without respite, and without the need to stay within the bounds of truth or reality.The form guides for the Melbourne Cup cover known characteristics of each contender such as the weight they will carry, blood-lines, results of their previous starts, the name of the rider, the colours they will wear and how they have performed in varying track conditions. This gives the punters some understanding of where they should place their trust, confidence and money.

The equivalent information on the candidates in the race for the US Presidency seems to focus on their foibles, weaknesses, supposed indiscretions, scholastic misdemeanours, possible or implied sexual peccadillos, questionable births, inability to spell and embarrassing knowledge of any geography outside the US.

This means that the focus of punters at the Melbourne Cup is to look for the competitor that they believe has the greatest strengths to be able to perform well on their behalf, and which has the best chance of delivering benefit to those that believe in and back him.

Voters in the American Presidential Election on the other hand seem to be expected to weigh up all the weaknesses that have been put on show by the competitive and warring parties, and then decide which of the alternatives will be capable of causing the least damage to the lives of the US citizens and the economy.

We have recently seen President Obama being forced to defocus on his day job of running the US to appear with his birth certificate on the Oprah Winfrey Show, to put paid to speculation about his place of birth. Now we see questions being raised about his Occidental College records, Columbia College records, Columbia Thesis papers, Harvard College records, Selective Service Registration, Medical records, Law practice client list and even his record of baptism. Voters are now meant to believe that these are all significantly more important issues than the quality of the job that he is currently doing and whether he is the right person for the punters to put their money on … whoops … of course I meant to say for the voters to put their trust in, to be able to take the US over the hurdles that face it.

This is also meant to take our minds off the fact that the Republicans haven’t yet been able to come up with a solid thoroughbred of their own to enter this race. Even if you could combine the bloodlines of Palin, Romney, and Bachmann you would still end up with a hack rather than a short-odds favourite with the bookies and most of the punters.

Sarah Palin at a campaign rally in Raleigh; Author: Therealbs2002 (own work); via Wikimedia Commons

Sarah Palinis a reasonable looking filly, and is a skilled hunter and show pony, but is easily distracted and needs a team of handlers to regularly muck out her stall.Mitt Romney is well schooled (Harvard Law and Business Schools), but ran outside his weight class in 1994 losing to top weight Ted Kennedy in the Massachusetts Senate race in 1994, and again in the Presidential race in 2008, losing the nomination to John McCain in the Republican sweepstakes. His poor showings outside state trials will not endear him to punters looking for a solid starter at the Nationals, and he is therefore an unlikely starter.

US Congress image (public domain); via Wikimedia Commons

Michelle Bachmannis another filly that has the ability to attract big money but has shown that she does not have the horse-sense needed, and that she is more of a thoroughdumb than a thoroughbred, for example once highlighting the fact that swine flu broke out under a Democratic President (Jimmy Carter) and had never happened under a Republican President.There is also a large stallion neighing loudly in the Republican stables that after much stomping has decided that he will not run in 2012, in the same way that he skittered a bit in 2008. Donald Trump is a Palomino, though there is some question as to his true colours because of the heavy plaiting to his mane. He has put himself out to stud three times, but is considered more of a circus horse than a serious galloper, even though his purses have been massive throughout his development.

Author: Boss Tweed; via Wikimedia Commons

Obama may have been a dark horse in 2008, but at least in 2012 will be a known starter, and whether we like him or not he has shown that he can come from behind to take a major race, attracting a large number of small backers rather than a small number of high rollers.It will be a toss-up for me as to which one I watch with more interest on the day. The Melbourne Cup takes between 3-4 minutes to run and generally has little lasting impact on the punters beyond the immediate cash collections for a few. The US Presidential Election takes a bit longer to decide but has a lasting impact on the entire world for at least 4 years.

I do however feel that this particular US Presidential race could learn a lot about honesty, morality, honour and grace from the Melbourne horse race with which it will share a date.



  1. Jen Roach says:

    Analogical reasoning is a powerful tool – perfect analysis…just wondering if the drinking of champagne and beer before and during the race is similar in both events?

  2. leshayman says:

    Jen, i would imagine that it would be similar as winners will drink to celebrate and losers will drink to forget. Les

  3. Simon Hopkins says:

    Well said. Living in the US but not being able to vote here gives you an interesting perspective. I have long felt that the whole process was to find the last horse standing.

  4. leshayman says:

    Hi Simon,
    I think you are right. It’s seems to be a question of who last runs out of energy and money.
    The amazing thing for me is always the low turnout of eligible voters … so few seem to care, I guess based on the belief that ultimately the candidates are all basically interchangeable. Les

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