Six Weeks From Iowa To DC/Md/Va Primaries: Novelty Items
In the pop culture of electoral politics, you haven't really made it to the top until there's a healthy supply of wacky and dumb novelty items keyed to your celebrity. So far, the novelty market is holding back on the current crop of candidates. While the nation is awash in George W. Bush playing cards, coasters, toilet paper and action figures, the novelty industry's early take on the 2008 campaign is remarkably one-sided.
For most '08 presidential candidates, you can find plenty of shirts and buttons, even an array of Obama t-shirt slogans, but the only candidate who has already become a steady source of business in the novelty world is Hillary Clinton.
Of course, some companies are just clearing really old inventory, from those crazy days of the 90s when the First Lady was the #1 target on the pop market. But there are some new items on the market, including the big new seller on the political scene: The Hillary Nutcracker.
Complete with its own theme song ("She's a nutcracker, Bushwhacker, Yankees backer...."), the nutcracker runs you $24.95 and has already sold 200,000 units, more than 20 times the number that accounts for an excellent performance by any political novelty item. The key to success for the Minneapolis company that puts out the product is that it's being marketed to both sides of the political divide: Red America loves the idea of lampooning Clinton as pushy and harsh, whereas Blue America buys the item to recognize "the tough Hillary who can handle right wing nuts," as one of the promoters of the product put it.
The Clinton portrayed on the nutcracker is not unattractive, even if she does have rock-solid ridges lining her inner thighs. The creators of the piece say they wanted her to be appealing to friends and enemies alike. And on the campaign trail, Clinton has been confronted with the nutcracker and has taken it in good humor.
On the company's site, a questionnaire asking consumers whom else they'd like to see portrayed on a nutcracker found Ann Coulter and Rosie O'Donnell next up after the junior senator from New York.
So, even as the political junkies enter year two or three of the '08 campaign, it's important to note that most Americans tell pollsters they haven't yet paid any significant attention to the presidential race, and the novelty market reflects that--someday, we're likely to see some good, hard-hitting products aimed at the likes of Mitt Romney, Barack Obama and Mike Huckabee, but smart businessmen aren't yet ready to jump in on any of those candidates, not even on Rudy Giuliani or John Edwards, two of the most heavily spoofed figures on the Internet. At this early stage, only Hillary Clinton has the star power to rank her own gadgets and novelty items.
By Marc Fisher |
January 3, 2008; 7:25 AM ET
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