SOME SAY IT was sheer coincidence when presidential candidate Mike Huckabee’s poll numbers soared in Iowa and New Hampshire a mere few weeks after Chuck Norris-endorsed, “Huck and Chuck” campaign gear was released on his Web site. Others will say it was inevitable and simply demonstrates the power of a quality promotional product. What can’t be argued, though, is the fact that promotional products go with politics like peas go with carrots.
Fittingly, the first political product actually coincided with the first President of the United States, George Washington, who wore a political button during his inauguration on April 30, 1789 in Manhattan. His was one of the 70 or so known styles of buttons to be made for the event. While these early buttons—often made from wood, cloth and tin—are a far cry from the lenticular, embossed, light-up lapel adornments of today, they started a trend that is only growing larger each year. So, with the advances in technology and communication, political campaigns raise millions upon millions of dollars for ad buys, campaign staff, constant travel and of course, promotional products.
In national and high-profile campaigns, the increase in funds and full-time staff leads to a trend of higher-end and more diverse campaign products. There are still the staples: yard signs, bumper stickers and buttons, but gone are the days when a plain T-shirt with a candidate’s message in red, white and blue block letters would suffice. Now, fitted T-shirts in designer colors litter the campaign trail. Candidates target their donors demographically, the same way any distributor would approach an end-user. The Obama Store offers up the “Women For Obama Rib Ladies Tank w/Spaghetti Strap,” which is available in his youth-targeted “Gear For Less” section. Other candidates are branching out as well. Romney offers cuff links. Edwards touts duffel bags and totes. And, well, Kucinich is offering Palm Beach County voting machines containing actual Palm Beach County chads (not sure if they’re imprinted, though).