Gag Gifts Lighten Up Partisan Campaign

Statements about the 2004 presidential candidates might be made in some unlikely ways this campaign season — using everything from a roll of toilet paper to a deck of cards.

With every big election or national event comes the usual gaggle of political gag items as entrepreneurs scramble to make a buck and add a little levity to the situation.

“It’s a variation on bumper stickers and buttons,” said Eleanor Clift, Fox News political analyst and contributing editor at Newsweek magazine. “These gag gifts are caricatures, but they often reveal a truth about a candidate.”

This year, has created rolls of two-ply tissue paper with the faces of either President Bush or Sen. John Kerry (search) on them so people can express their, er, views of the two contenders in the race for the White House.

“It’s a very harmless and humorous way of letting your family and friends know what you think of the current candidates,” said James Wilson, creator and Webmaster of the Detroit-based “It brings some fun into the debate in the privacy of your own home.”

So far, the Bush toilet paper is outselling its Kerry counterpart by 30 percent, according to Wilson.

“More people want Bush in the bathroom than John Kerry,” he said.

The site, which launched in January, doesn’t recommend the toilet paper for “personal hygienic use” since the photographs on each sheet have been printed with ink that runs. The presidential TP, which sells on the Web site for $9.95 a roll plus $3 shipping, is more for show.

“People really enjoy and get involved with the political process,” Wilson said. “Anytime we can poke fun at our politicians, it’s a wonderful thing.”

In that vein, sells the “Deck of Weasels” playing cards for $9.95 with the faces of choice Democratic leaders and celebrities on them, and Nitestar Inc. offers the “Deck of Republican Chickenhawks” for $14.95 a pack. also offers other political gag merchandise, like a President Bush action figure and a talking Donald Rumsfeld (search) doll, coffee mugs and other gifts. There’s even a T-shirt mocking Kerry in the works.

“They’re original. They’re funny. It makes light of a serious situation,” said company product manager Brooke D’Argenio. “People just love them. The closer (campaign season) gets, the more sales will pick up.”

D’Argenio said the merchandise — which caters mostly to Republican consumers — has all been very popular.

“We’ve had huge responses to all these items,” she said. “They continue to sell.”

Other politically expressive items: the sexy “Babes Against Bush” calendar and John Kerry lunch boxes, to name a few.

Often political journalists covering primaries and debates are the ones buying the campaign gag trinkets as souvenirs, according to Clift.

“Even if you hate the candidate, sometimes you buy the stuff,” she said. “If it injects some humor into the whole process and drains some of the poison from the partisan atmosphere, it’s a good thing. It’s good for politics.”

And in this post-Sept. 11 and Iraqi war world, laughter can be the best medicine.

“I like to refer to it as political therapy,” Wilson said. “We live in a very stressful world right now. If my product can put a smile on someone’s face, I think I’ve done my job.”