Political Slogans Gets Meaner

Democrats and Republicans Blaze New Frontiers in Campaign Paraphernalia

No matter what happens between now and Election Day, one group is guaranteed to win — the promotional products industry, which is turning toys, food products and all manner of apparel into official and unofficial campaign paraphernalia.

To get out the swing vote, supporters of both George W. Bush and John Kerry offer golf balls endorsing their candidates. Kerry and Bush are also depicted on novelty fishing lures. By November, we'll learn which is more appealing to voters and to bass.

There's no stopping the growing array of campaign buttons, mugs, magnets, T-shirts, and other campaign paraphernalia — a business that's bigger than ever.

"This is definitely the No. 1 event for us," says Bill Prickett of the Promotional Products Association International, a group of 7,000 manufacturers and distributors that sells $16 billion worth of merchandise a year. "It wouldn't be bad for us if every year was an election year."

Campaign buttons go back as far as George Washington, and new printing technologies make it possible to print almost anything on almost anything, allowing Democrats and Republicans to get more creative in their ruthless attacks.

Indeed, both candidates are on a roll … of toilet paper. Fortune cookies are made to order for whatever outcome your political interest group desires, even "Nader Wins!" They may not be officially approved by a candidate or party, but that doesn't stop politically minded folks.

"As soon as John Edwards joined the [Democratic] ticket, we snapped into action. We didn't have much time," says Sharon Young of, which manufactures and sells campaign buttons to both sides.

"You can sell buttons that make fun of a candidate and still do business with that candidate's campaign," says Young. "That's politics."

But the line is being redrawn this year, with vigorous and more negative campaigning, and folks in the promotional products industry couldn't be happier.