Make a Run for The Ballot Box

In the end, Taco Bell predicted the outcome of the California recall election almost perfectly.

For a seven-week promotion, the chain assigned menu items to the candidates —Arnold Schwarzenegger was the Crunchy Beef Taco; Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante was the Chalupa; Gov. Gray Davis was the Chicken Soft Taco; the other 133 candidates were the Grilled Stuft Burrito—and let patrons vote with their mouths (the vote tallies were linked to sales). As in real life, Ahnuld came out on top, seizing 81 percent of the vote. Davis came in dead last, at 1 percent. (Considering that poor showing, he appears to have been assigned the wrong menu item: “Drop the Chalupa” has a ring to it.) Bustamante won 5 percent of the vote. The other 133 candidates earned 13 percent.

But was the vote rigged? After all, the beef taco is the chain’s best-selling item, seemingly giving Arnold a boost. Taco Bell rep Laurie Schalow says the results were tied to a formula that measured sales increases week-to-week for each item, not overall sales.

Was she surprised that the poll predicted the winner? “Originally, yes,” she says. But as Schwarzenegger led in both the Taco Bell and Gallup polls week after week, she says, his victory seemed assured.

Schalow has not heard much from the candidates, but she did hear from Bustamante’s camp after he was initially left out of the race. He was promptly added as the Chalupa.

Will there be a poll for the presidential election? “Oh, there have been talks about that,” says Schalow. “We are considering it.”