You know the Presidential election season is in full swing because both candidates have flung open the doors to their campaign merchandise shopping sites.
Obviously you’re making a statement when you wear an Obama t-shirt or slap a Romney bumper sticker on your car. And the candidates are making their own statements. The products they sell and the design aesthetics they choose extend their brands and offer insight to the spirit of the respective campaigns.
Campaign merchandise is so much more than t-shirts, bumper stickers, and buttons. Along with cat collars, dog bandanas, nail polish, and boxer shorts, the 2012 election has brought us a department store’s worth of kitchen goods: products for eating and drinking, cooking and serving.
We have a meatloaf-loving teetotaling challenger, and an incumbent who likes to wash down his arugula salad with craft-brewed beer. And it shows.
Romney: The Man and the Merch
It’s a good thing for Mitt Romney that we’re not voting on the merchandise.
Is anyone surprised that the candidate who lacks sizzle on the stump is a bore in the store?
Romney merchandise is dependably square and predictable. It upholds the G.O.P. tradition of unimaginative graphics— good enough but brand bland. It’s so lacking in personality and excitement that it makes you wonder if the dullness is deliberate and defiant, a badge or honor flying in the face of the Obama pizazz. Or maybe it’s all the campaign could muster.
There’s the white-with-red-and-blue Believe in America coffee mug, the white-with-red-and-blue Believe in America travel coffee cup, and the white-with-red-and-blue Believe in America travel water bottle. Slightly more daring is the Believe in America cork beverage coaster, hinting at the possibility of alcoholic beverages, and stepping out with a blue-with-red-and-white color scheme.
It really has been a four year Obama Foodorama.
Obama installed a vegetable garden on the White House lawn and a beehive in the back. He has turned state dinners into foodie events and bottled the first-ever White House home-brewed beer. Naturally we entered the election season with high hopes for some serious foodie swag, and Obama-Biden 2012 doesn’t disappoint.
The contrast with Romney is striking. The Obama team runs a high-spirited campaign with a self-deprecating sense of humor, an eye for graphic design, an appreciation of the cocktail hour, and a willingness to take some risks. Critics have taken swings at the campaign for its endless cavalcade of offerings and its painfully hip and elitist inclusion of high-end designers and celebrities, but at least it’s got personality.
Obama answers the citizenship conspiracy theorists with his Made in the USA birther mug— a relaxed Obama pictured on front is backed up by a photo of his long-form birth certificate. The Cup of Joe mug features the smiling mug of Joe Biden. The campaign pokes more fun celebrating the President’s vaguely Irish roots with the O’Bama pint glasses, and Biden’s working-class beginnings with the Cheers Champ beer can cozy. The Obama sunrise logo is also slapped onto neoprene wine bottle totes and 6-pack cooler/carriers, and it’s etched into tumblers and highball glasses, and stemware for wine and martinis.
This is not an administration that shies away from the libations.
Cooking with POTUS
Wear a Fired Up and Ready to Grill apron when you flip your burgers with the Obama sunrise spatula, while the waiting bun (yes, Michelle, it’s whole grain) bears the Shepard Fairey portrait courtesy of the Burnt Impressions toaster. Home cooks for Obama are in good company—The Braiser examined the Federal Election Commission’s individual filings, fundraising, and bundling efforts to identify the top 15 political contributions made by chefs. It’s 14:1 in favor of Obama, and only #15, former Iron Chef/Top Chef competitor Tim Love had opened his wallet for Romney. It’s worth noting that each of the top four on the list (Alice Waters, Marcus Samuelsson, Daniel Boulud, and Jean-Georges Vongerichten) brought in more than a million dollars, compared to Love’s $500.
Of course campaign merchandise doesn’t win elections; if it did, the race would already be over.