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Could a T-Shirt Pick the Next President?

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Enthusiasm over the 2008 presidential election is motivating some people to wear their politics on their sleeve. Literally.

Political T-shirts are nothing new, but interest in this presidential campaign season, and the ease with which custom T-shirts can be created, has led to a trend that is giving new meaning to the phrase "retail politics."

And merchandisers — especially online merchandisers — are cashing in.

CafePress.com and Zazzle.com, which both specialize in user-generated products, report significantly increased political merchandise sales. Zazzle, in fact, expects 2008 sales in this area to be 10 times their normal amount.

But which candidate's merchandise is seeing the best sales? And could this possibly be a political barometer?

At CafePress.com, election merchandise sales have accounted for approximately 20 percent of overall revenue since the election cycle started last November.

Sen. Barack Obama product sales on the site account for 46 percent of cumulative election sales during that time. Sen. Hillary Clinton sales accounted for 19 percent over the same time period, and products for Sen. John McCain accounted for 3 percent.

At Zazzle.com, the story is very similar.

"Obama is by far, two-to-one, over the second place candidate. Hillary is number two. The interesting thing about Hillary is, there’s just about as much negative merchandise on Hillary as there is positive," said James Heckman, Zazzle's chief strategy officer.

Sen. John McCain is third in sales on the site, but as Heckman points out, that could be a contrarian indicator.

"The older demographic ends up voting more than the younger demographic, so I would say the last-place merchandise seller, McCain, may end up being the first place winner," he said. "Maybe the older audience doesn’t know how to sit down in front of a computer and create a design for a T-shirt, but they do tend to show up at the voting booth."