Buttons, Bumper Stickers and Sandals Sell the Message

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NEW YORK ( -- Humorous tie-in products have long been a staple in the arsenal of communications gimmicks used to market presidential candidates, but in number and level of vitriol
Photo: AP
Pro-Bush buttons are hot items in Madison Square Garden. Here, a delegate has festooned a hat.
they seem to have escalated in this Bush-Kerry go-around.

The Democrats got a head start in the field as vendors hawked all manner of anti-President Bush items from buttons to dolls from sidewalk tables, lobby displays and convention stands in Boston.

Novelty vendors
Now the Republicans -- and their own phalanx of novelty vendors -- are shooting back from sales tables and displays around Madison Square Garden and other venues where delegates gather.

Perhaps one of the most ironic items being hawked yesterday was rubber "John Kerry" flip-flop sandals -- being sold at a time when President Bush was leading the news with his own high profile flip-flop on the "We can't win the war against terrorism" gaffe he made in an national TV interview.

The anti-Kerry sandals have a left shoe imprinted with the words "For the war in Iraq, For no child left behind?" and a right shoe with the words "Against" the same two issues.

Bush ketchup
In a swipe at Mr. Kerry's wife and Heinz heir, Teresa Heinz Kerry, Republican National Committee vendors are selling "Wketchup," offering good Republicans a more acceptable tomato-based condiment. The $3-a-bottle product was being sold with promotional materials that said, "You don't support Democrats, why should your ketchup?"

In another variation on the same marketing theme, t-shirts printed with the Heinz ketchup symbol say: "Kerry Flip Flops, 57 Varieties, Loser."

There were also the normal run

Photo: Ira Teinowitz
Anti-Kerry flip-flops for sale yesterday.
of campaign buttons, bumper stickers, tote bags and White House Christmas ornaments, some featuring the first family.

Brisk business
Despite tight security measures that made it a chore to get there, business in Bush-Cheney bric-a-brac was brisk at the Hilton New York yesterday.

"From the minute doors opened it was crazy," said Bob Levine of St. Louis, who owns Button Bob.

He said he spent about $4,000 buying or making buttons and hopes to triple his investment. Mr. Levine, like several of the vendors, is non-partisan. He also sold to Democrats in Boston.

At another booth, right-minded consumers were offered the opportunity to join the Republican Wine Club. All wines feature elephants on their labels.

The Party Wine
Ralph Sherman, vice president of the Party Wine, is promoting the club, which prominently notes its promise that 20% of the profits will be donated to the RNC.

Actually more of a devoted huckster than a political partisan, Mr. Sherman also has a Democratic Wine Club, which features wines with donkey labels and a 20% cut of the profits to the Democratic National Committee.

"The wines are the same, but you open the Democratic one by tipping the bottle to the left and the Republican one by tipping it to the right," he said, tongue in cheek.

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