If you are what you buy, then one can surmise a lot about the current political climate from the things people are choosing to wear, drink out of or stick on the backs of their cars.
Or maybe Ron Paul fans just really like plastering his name on everything they own.
Judging by the sales on CafePress, a leading user-generated retail e-commerce website that sells t-shirts, mugs, accessories, and "stickers & flair," among other products, Ron Paul should be sweeping every primary and dominating every poll.
To date, Paul has drastically outsold all other GOP candidates in merchandise sales on the site and has even bested President Barack Obama by a wide margin -- racking up 59 percent of all merch sales thus far, compared to Obama's 25 percent, Romney's 10 percent and Gingrich's 5 percent. Compare that to Paul's current third place standing in the GOP Gallup Poll -- he has 11 percent support to Romney's 31 percent.
"Ron Paul folks are just really amped up about Ron," said Joe Schmidt, the senior vice president of retail at CafePress. "They buy a lot of stuff and they wear a lot of stuff. His constituency base is incredibly passionate. The Ron Paul nation, you know, they love their t-shirts."
Every month CafePress receives 11 million unique visitors, and 137,000 original product designs are uploaded each week by users across the globe.
Many of those designs are political; some are meant to be funny, others very straightforward. Right now, you can buy a "Mitt's The Shit!" t-shirt with a picture of toilet paper on it, or alternately, a "Dogs Against Romney" bumper sticker. There are Santorum '12 tote bags and Newt Gingrich wall clocks and thongs. You can even dip into history and pick up merch from candidates who have bowed out of the race, like Jon Huntsman ("Huntsmen for Huntsman!") and Rick Perry ("Having a Perry Moment" t-shirts are now marked down to $20).
And aside from the Ron Paul discrepancy, sales do seem to correspond with national political trends. Last week, after President Obama's State of the Union address, sales of Obama-themed merchandise soared and began tilting a bit more positive. Before the speech, 26 percent of the Obama-related merchandise bore positive messages about the president and 74 percent sported negative messages, Schmidt said, whereas afterward it shifted drastically. Sales of pro-Obama merchandise jumped to 45 percent and those of anti-Obama merchandise dropped to 55 percent.
"We also watched pro-Obama gear more than double after that speech," Schmidt said, although it's worth noting that sales anti-Obama merchandise were still stronger than those of pro-Obama merchandise. "Obama [products] represented 46 percent of all t-shirt sales last week."
During the 2008 presidential race, merch sales on CafePress were very much in Obama's favor. By November 2007, Obama had captured over half of all sales on the site, "all while McCain was barely hanging onto 20 percent," Schmidt said.
As the race narrows down to two candidates, we'll likely see another shift in sales. But until then, it will be interesting to see if Ron Paul can hang onto his rabid fan base and stay King of Merch, despite his current third place standing in the polls and his recent fourth place finish in the Florida primary.
"Personally," Schmidt said, with a hint of sarcasm, "I think Ron's going to take it."
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