A Holiday Guide For The Politically Inclined | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

A Holiday Guide For The Politically Inclined

Play associated audio

At NPR, we know a thing or two about promotional merchandise. After all, we invented the Nina Totin' Bag and the Carl Kasell Autograph Pillow. So, on this Black Friday, White House correspondent Scott Horsley presents the NPR guide to campaign swag.

Not long ago, President Obama's re-election campaign sent out an email, advertising its 2012 merchandise and urging supporters to stock up for the holidays. Not to be outdone, the Republican White House candidates are hawking their own ballcaps and bumper stickers.

While the Iowa and New Hampshire contests are still weeks away, the T-shirt primary is already in progress. Americans have been voting with their pocketbooks at retail websites like CafePress and Zazzle.

"We've always thought that our website is really the democratization of commerce in general. With respect to election gear, we see that for sure," says Melanie Sherk, a vice president at Zazzle, which sells thousands of customized products — many with designs promoting or attacking the various presidential candidates.

The company's sales offer a rough indicator of which way the political winds are blowing.

"I think our sales generally track the 'buzziness' of the candidate," Sherk says. "So as candidates are either surging in popularity or if there's particular sentiment against the candidate, that's what we see."

The CafePress website now features an "election meter" so you can track the sales associated with candidates.

Newt Gingrich is enjoying a good run right now. But he hasn't caught up with Ron Paul's T-shirt sales.

Josh Neuman of Zazzle says Paul is a consistent seller there, too.

"He's actually the second-most-trafficked candidate, after Obama," Neuman says. "His fans are just sort of crazy in some ways. Just fanatics."

The candidates try to grab a piece of this action themselves by selling merchandise on their own websites, though it's often not as creative as what's offered by independent designers. Sure, there's a Mitt Romney hoodie. And a travel mug for the well-traveled Jon Huntsman.

But where's the Michele Bachmann china for your own tea party? Or the Gingrich campaign ornament, designed by Tiffany's? Or the Herman Cain Atlas of the World, priced to move at $9.99?

Obama's campaign website offers somewhat more variety. There's a "Fired Up, Ready to Grill" barbecue apron and a Joe Biden beer cozy. Sadly, there's no Obama cigarette lighter. Must have been discontinued.

And what about old-fashioned brick-and-mortar retailers?

Honest Abe's souvenir shop in Washington is just across the street from the wax presidents display at Madame Tussauds. Manager Freddie Vinoya says the souvenir store used to be filled with merchandise celebrating Obama.

"We stocked more before. After the inauguration, we got a lot of Obama-related items," he says.

Nowadays, there are only a few presidential refrigerator magnets and bobblehead dolls on the shelves, along with a commemorative plate featuring Michelle Obama — probably meant to be a salad plate.

Vinoya just unpacked his first batch of 2012 Obama T-shirts. The "Hope" slogan has been replaced by a message about tough times requiring a wise leader, and a somber-looking picture of the president.

"Last campaign was, like, very happy and, 'He did it!' I don't know this year," Vinoya says.

Vinoya's still waiting for his first shipment of Republican campaign gear. It's hard to know which candidates to include from week to week.

Maybe that's why there's a deck of playing cards featuring candidates and also-rans with the slogan, "Every one's a wild card."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

100 Years Ago, 'New Republic' Helped Define Modern Liberalism

Robert Siegel speaks with The New Republic editor Franklin Foer about the new book Insurrections of the Mind, a collection of seminal essays from the magazine's first 100 years.
NPR

Edible Packaging? Retailers Not Quite Ready To Ditch The Wrapper

To reduce waste, some enterprising companies are trying to roll out products that make the package part of the snack — edible packaging. But selling it to the retail market is trickier than it seems.
WAMU 88.5

Senator's Legislation Would Strip NFL Of Nonprofit Status

The Redskins' refusal to change its name has prompted the legislation from U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).
NPR

The Kaypro II: An Early Computer With A Writer's Heart

Commentator Andrei Codrescu remembers the first word processor he had — the Kaypro II in the 1980s. Its inventor, Andrew Kay, died Aug. 28, at the age of 95.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.