Mask Sales Help Predict Presidential Election

This story was written by Christopher Placek, The Marquette Tribune
Next Tuesday, Wisconsin voters will go to the polls to cast votes in the state's presidential primary election. But a local Internet costume company is giving people another opportunity to "vote" in the 2008 election -- and all it takes is a click of a mouse and a credit card.

New Berlin-based Buycostumes.com is selling paper masks of the major presidential candidates for 99 cents each. The likeness of each candidate has been reprinted on thousands of masks, and it's expected the company will sell tens of thousands more to buyers from all across the country, according to company Chief Executive Officer Jalem Getz.

The Internet retailer is tracking purchases of the candidate masks on its Web site, and Getz said the candidate who wins the Buycostumes.com election may go on to win the real election in November.

That's because the Web site has predicted the past two elections correctly, he said. In 2000, sales of George W. Bush's mug beat out the likeness of Al Gore 57 percent to 43 percent. In 2004, sales of Bush beat out John Kerry 53 to 47.

The company didn't start selling vinyl masks until the top two candidates in each party had been determined in the 2000 and 2004 elections. This year, Getz said the company decided to start its mock election earlier -- this time with paper masks -- to include primary candidates.

The Web site is posting running totals of its presidential mask poll as people cast their "votes." As of Monday, Barack Obama led Hillary Clinton in the Democratic race and Ron Paul held a surprising lead over John McCain and Mike Huckabee in the Republican contest.

Buycostumes.com has reached out to the presidential campaigns in the hopes of connecting with supporters of the candidates. Getz said the Paul campaign responded to the company's marketing team, but it's unclear if that's why Paul's mask is the leading vote-getter.

Only result totals of the candidates still in the race are posted, though people can still buy masks of candidates who have dropped out including Mitt Romney, Rudy Giuliani and John Edwards if they choose, Getz said.

When the top Democratic and Republican candidates have been determined, Buycostumes.com will sell latex masks for the general election. Already, the company has Clinton, Obama and McCain latex masks, Getz said.

This year's general election will be held Nov. 4, just days after Halloween, when some of the most popular costumes could be presidential masks.

"During Halloween all things begin to sell better for us," Getz said. "We believe this year - because it's timely - a lot of people will be dressing up as people they support or people they don't support for that matter."

Other area costume retailers aren't marketing the election to the extent of buycostumes.com.

Steve Brown, store manager of Miller and Campbell Costume Service, 907 S. 1st St., said he hasn't received many phone calls requesting masks of the presidential candidates. He said there is still a mask of Hillary Clinton left over from Halloween.

Bartz, The Party Store, which has four Milwaukee area locations, won't start its 2008 presidential mask sales until the two main candidates have been declared. Vinyl masks will probably be in stores by mid-August, said the company's seasonal purchasing agent Lance Miller.

But some masks never go out of style. Miller said Bartz sells out Richard Nixon masks every year at Halloween.

"Nixon will never go away and neither will (Bill) Clinton," Miller said. "It comes down to controversy and personality. Gerald Ford or Jimmy Carter just don't make good masks."
© 2008 The Marquette Tribune via U-WIRE
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