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A political swag season like no other

Campaign buttons supporting US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump are displayed before a rally. TASOS KATOPODIS/AFP/Getty Images

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Ted Jackson runs an unofficial online Trump store stocked with shirts and hats with phrases like “Let’s Make America Great Again” (he added the ‘Let’s’ to avoid legal problems).

From the start, sales of Trump merchandise were strong, Jackson said. During the primaries, Trump outsold the other Republican candidates, 20 to one.

But everything that happened before the national conventions, “compared to what happens post-convention — to say is night and day is not even adequate,” Jackson noted.

Just how much have sales shot up during the past few weeks?

“Tenfold,” he said. 

So far, Trump’s official campaign swag has been pretty standard: t-shirts, hats and yard signs. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton got volunteer help from some big-name fashion designers like Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch.

But there hasn’t been anything as iconic as the red, white and blue Hope poster that helped define Obama’s run, said Marlene Morris Towns, a teaching professor of marketing at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business.  

“And I don’t know that there is enough passion out there for either candidate that those kinds of things are going to repeat themselves,” she said.

Well, there’s definitely passion, but of a different kind. Trump and Clinton are easily among the most disliked presidential candidates in history.

“And the case I think that each candidate effectively is making is ‘Well, if you hate the opponent so much, help me defeat that person. So, spend a little bit of money,’” said Bruce Newman, a marketing professor at DePaul University.

That negativity is driving Amy Doughty’s business. The nurse from St. Louis has made and sold thousands of campaign-related buttons and shirts on her site. The meaner the message, the more she makes.

“Nice ones don’t sell,” she said.

Much of her Trump merchandise goes after his hair and politics, while the Clinton swag typically features degrading, sexist language.

“I hate to be like that. I’m really not a mean person,” Doughty said. “I’m supporting her. I’m voting for her.”

But, she added “I don’t love her. That’s not who I would’ve picked.”

CafePress, a big online retailer, said its swag sales are up 20 percent over the last presidential election. One reason why? Brisk business in a new category: merchandise that says ‘anybody, but these two.’ 

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