Need last-minute gifts? Presidential hopefuls are offering jewelry, gift boxes and Trump mugshot merchandise

By | December 22, 2023

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — The field of 2024 presidential candidates may have some options for shoppers looking for a last-minute holiday gift.

As the campaign for the White House heats up, the contenders are offering a flood of holiday-themed merchandise, many of which capture some of the surreal aspects of the 2024 race. Donald TrumpFor example, he embraces his status as the first former president to face criminal charges by adorning his mugshot on Christmas sweaters, gift boxes and stockings.

Trump and his supporters have embraced the image of him looking intensely into the Fulton County Jail camera since he surrendered on charges that he illegally tried to interfere in Georgia’s 2020 election.

Trump’s campaign hardly relinquishes its status, offering items emblazoned with the mugshot almost immediately after the August shooting, with almost daily emails offering supporters a mug, T-shirt or poster with the image on it , along with the words ‘Never Again’. Surrender.”

Nearly all of the 2024 candidates have online stores, and most have tchotchkes highlighting the year’s politics.

You can pick up a Nikki Haley tree ornament and wrapping paper, emblazoned with the hopeful’s campaign logo, or a litany of more traditional items like hats, shirts and even “Past my prime?” drink koozies that hark back to the comment that partially led to CNN’s Don Lemon being fired.

Don’t forget Ron DeSantis’ set of golf balls, the box of which bears the phrase that he “has a pair” — a slight on Trump for not participating in the Republican Party primaries. Or Vivek Ramaswamy’s “Nikki = Corrupt” T-shirt, the sentence the entrepreneur wrote on a notepad after a debate night tirade against Haley’s service on the board of aerospace giant Boeing Co.

Democrats also benefit from the chance to boost their sales — and the associated campaign donations that come with it. President Joe Biden’s re-election campaign features a slew of usual clothing fare. There’s also a line of “Dark Brandon” shirts, signs, mugs and even holiday gift boxes featuring the red-eyed caricature of the president embracing the 2021 phrase “Let’s Go Brandon,” intended as an insult (but which the Democrats have tried to operationalize into an ironic battle cry).

Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s store features clothing, stickers and some items that read “No Shirt, No Shoes, No Secret Service,” recalling the independent candidate’s continued refusal to enjoy federal protection despite security concerns during his campaign.

You’re out of luck, however, if you’re looking for official Chris Christie or Dean Phillips merchandise – holiday or otherwise – although there are a number of third-party suppliers ready to supply you with shirts, hats and even beach towels.

The Trump mugshot merchandise has been popping up on the campaign trail as Trump and others staggered through Iowa ahead of the Jan. 15 caucuses.

A Christmas version features a red and white Santa hat on top of Trump’s head. There’s also a Christmas stocking with a mugshot and accompanying wrapping paper, as well as another version in which the candidate raises his fist in the air.

At a recent Trump campaign event in Cedar Rapids, the crowd of at least 700 people featured plenty of Trump merchandise, with the former president’s name, the “Make America Great Again” slogan and his mugshot on hats, T- shirts and signs. more. One couple, who declined to speak to an Associated Press reporter, wore matching red and green MAGA Christmas sweaters.

Pat Sand, a 57-year-old from Marcus, Iowa, who wore a Trump campaign hat and button, said Trump’s use of his mugshot on merchandise, including Christmas-themed items, “brings out the name and face, good or bad.”

Sand said he has new toilet paper with Trump’s mugshot on it — though he added with a laugh that he doesn’t use it.

“My daughter bought it for me,” he said. “It was sarcasm.”

Outside of the event, Scott Bohac of the Cleveland, Ohio area was one of a few unofficial merchandise sellers setting up tables and tents outside Trump’s events.

As the crowds filed home and a winter storm loomed, Bohac — who has spent the past three years traveling the country selling shirts outside Trump rallies — folded the last few T-shirts he wanted for the event. made that day.

“Some of these vendors have received as many as 20 different shirts. I push one shirt,” said Bohac, who said he designs a new shirt for each event with the date and location of the gathering — like a concert — along with a word like “Trump” and some sort of image in the middle, which he said it’s “usually always eagles.”

Bohac said he has not yet started selling the designs featuring Trump’s mugshot. He said sales have increased for him since Trump faced criminal charges, and it’s smart for the campaign to take advantage of that.

“I just left that up to everyone,” he said. “I do my thing.”

Campaigns are using their merchandising capabilities — from “Dark Brandon” to “Nikki = Corrupt” to the mugshot — to seize the moment, says J. Mark Powell, a GOP strategist and longtime collector of political memorabilia in South Carolina.

“What we’re seeing in this cycle is that we’re making the most of things that are being talked about right now but will soon turn into trivial questions for political junkies,” he said, adding that the fast-paced way campaigns are using from third-rate Party Vendors who want to make and sell their wares also bring in donations and user data, provide visibility and instill pride among supporters.

“Giving someone a Biden coffee mug or a roll of Trump wrapping paper isn’t going to change the opinion of a single undecided or independent voter,” he said. “It just makes existing supporters feel good about their candidate.”

Powell said he envisions a campaign merchandising strategy going forward that could reflect less novelty and more ideology.

“Could liberals one day have the option to buy an electric scooter to show their support for green energy, or could conservatives buy a barrier to be placed on a border wall?” he asked. “It sounds far-fetched now, but who could have imagined Trump’s wrapping paper five years ago?”

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Michelle L. Price contributed from Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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