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From stickers to T-shirts, debate moments inspire U.S. campaign merchandise

From stickers to T-shirts, debate moments inspire U.S. campaign merchandise
FILE PHOTO: U.S. Senator Cory Booker and former Vice President Joe Biden shake hands at the conclusion of the second night of the second 2020 Democratic U.S. presidential debate in Detroit, Michigan, July 31, 2019. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson -
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Lucas Jackson(Reuters)
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By Elizabeth Culliford

(Reuters) – Shortly after Wednesday’s debate, Democratic presidential candidate Cory Booker’s campaign jumped on rival Joe Biden’s slip in calling him the “future president” to raise campaign dollars.

The Cory 2020 campaign capitalized on the moment with a paid Facebook ad that read: “We think Joe Biden summed it up best: future President Cory Booker. Get your ‘Future President’ gear today,” and directed voters to Booker’s online merchandise store to buy a $4.00 pack of two vinyl stickers quoting Biden.

Booker, who clashed on stage with Democratic front-runner Biden over criminal justice, was following a playbook for viral merchandising seen on previous debate nights.

Before Tuesday’s debate was over, the Bernie Sander’s campaign was already promoting “I wrote the damn bill” stickers, after the senator’s confrontation with Representative Tim Ryan over Sanders’ “Medicare for All” plan.

But Sanders’ national press secretary Briahna Joy Gray was quick to point out the moment was not planned, tweeting on Tuesday night: “We don’t have ‘I wrote the damn bill’ t shirts ready to go (because it wasn’t a scripted line).”

The Ryan campaign also rushed to put its candidate’s response to another skirmish with Sanders over climate change solutions on stickers which read: “You don’t have to yell.”

Senator Kamala Harris’ campaign, which said it has taken in close to a half-million dollars from online sales of merchandise, also capitalized on her exchange with Biden in the first round of Democratic debates by selling T-shirts reading “That Little Girl Was Me” – a reference to Harris telling Biden that she benefited from a busing programme when she was a young student.

The Democratic candidates aren’t the only ones raising money through merchandise inspired by viral moments.

President Donald Trump’s campaign director Brad Parscale said on Twitter last week that the campaign had raised nearly $500,000 from selling packs of 10 branded plastic straws for $15, after several cities have limited or banned single-use plastic straws over environmental concerns.

The Trump campaign, which has consistently outspent Democratic rivals on Facebook advertising, paid for a slew of ads on the social media platform promoting the red straws over the last two weeks.

“Liberal paper straws don’t work! Stand with Trump and get the OFFICIAL Trump Straws,” read one post. “Make Straws Great Again,” read another.

(Reporting by Elizabeth Culliford; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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