Wednesday, November 09, 2016

What do we save to remember a campaign season that many would like to forget?

So, what do we save to remember an campaign season that many of us would just as soon forget?

Our final spin through campaign collectibles of the past will focus on this year's contest.

Honestly, it was a bit of a struggle. It might be saying something when the best campaign collectibles were found at Chow Hound, Meijer and Hallmark.

It was especially difficult to find the traditionally fun things.

Campaign pins have been largely phased out in favor of stickers, but I struggled to even find those in Michigan for Secretary Clinton.

But the things I did find were pretty cool, and I'm sure will appear cooler once some time has passed. A lot of time.

First, the giant masks were in the Halloween section at Meijer, along with giant baby faces, cats and chimps. Note: The stores had the traditional rubber masks. I've never bought those. I think they're kind of creepy.

The cat toys are pretty fun. At least Tug thinks so. He's found them twice. He seems to have chewed on each of them equally.

The pen is a hoot. Tap on President-elect Trump's head and the pen plays eight examples of the candidate's hyperbole. I've heard there is a Clinton version, but I've not been able to find one.

Finally, I have a small collection of stickers and pins. I always like to find pins with the official logo and with photos of both candidates, so I was mostly successful. But I had to resort to eBay, which isn't as much fun as finding them at rallies or campaign offices.

It's been a lot of fun looking through the collection, researching campaigns and recalling some experiences. I have great respect for the presidency, and each of our chief executives is a fascinating story.

If you get some time, the Washington Post this year offered a podcast -- "Presidential" -- that looked at each of our leaders.

Reporter Lilian Cunningham did a good job, talking to historians and experts. I saw some presidents in a new light, and there are many triumphs and heartbreak along the way. It's made my Monday morning commutes more enjoyable and I encourage you to binge listen now that they're all available.

And, if you are passing through Mount Pleasant before January, check out the Clarke Historical Library's exhibit in the Central Michigan University library dedicated to campaigns, focusing on the folks who fell just short. Trust me, it's awesome.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Gerald R. Ford's sacrifice for the greater good

In these turbulent times of electoral tension, I offer Gerald Ford.

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time takes a look back at 1976, when the nation's first unelected incumbent ran against Georgia Gov. Jimmy Carter.

Ford was the right person for the right time because he put what was best for the country ahead of what was best for himself.

His re-election was probably doomed a month into his tenure when he pardoned President Nixon.

It took years, but even the president's harshest critics came around to see that was the right decision.
We're blessed to have the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum here in Grand Rapids, and for a time the gift shop sold original campaign pins.

My favorite is the lenticular pin that shows the president's portrait and the his name when you turn it slightly.

I think we're going to need a calm, assuring and confident leader like Jerry Ford again.

Monday, November 07, 2016

Campaign collectibles from calmer time: Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the best corn ever

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time includes the best recipe for corn on the cob, ever!

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney fell short in his primary bid in 2008, though his foam baseball glove campaign sign is an all-time classic.

But Romney won the nomination in 2012, and one of his events was a rally at a Michigan farm with running mate Paul Ryan.

My daughter came with me, slipped away from the media pen and got very close to the action, snapping one of my favorite campaign photos.

All during the event, the folks hosting it had a large barbecue fired up, handing out ears of freshly grilled corn.

Once the candidates and crowd departed and I wrapped up my story -- with my daughter's sweet photo -- I wandered over to the grill area and was handed an ear of corn, with the husk still attached, but pulled down to reveal the bright kernels.

This was, without question, the best, tastiest, juiciest corn on the cob ever.

I passed my compliments to the grillers, and they shared their secret.

1) Throw the ears of corn, husk and all, in a bucket of water for several hours prior to grilling.
2) Throw the ears, again, husk and all, from the bucket right on to the grill.
3) Let them stay there for a while. It's OK of some of the husk is blackened. You're not going to eat that.
4) When ready, peel back the husk -- you'll need oven mitts -- and enjoy the best corn ever.

We've made corn this way, renaming it "Romney corn," ever since the rally.
You just never know what you are going to learn at a campaign event.

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Barack Obama, John McCain and the most-accurate poll

I don't place a lot of faith in polls these days, unless they are conducted by a hockey team with bobble heads.

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time brings us to my favorite hockey team -- the Grand Rapids Griffins -- and the 2008 election.

The Saturday before the election, the team conducted a "Bobble the Vote" promotion, allowing fans to pick a bobble of the candidate of their choice.

These bobbles are cool, depicting Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain in Griffins sweaters. The team promised to announce which of the bobble heads was the most popular by the end of the game.

All 1,000 of the Obama bobble heads were claimed, and there were 102 McCain bobbles left over.

That gave the Illinois senator 52.7 percent of the vote, with the Arizona senator 47.3 percent.

On Election Day that year, Obama earned 52.4 percent of the popular vote, and McCain earned 46.3 percent.

That's pretty close, giving the Griffins one of the most accurate polls of the campaign season.

There's a chance I skewed the results slightly. Naturally I wanted one of each of these awesome collectibles, so I brought my son to the game. I picked up a McCain and Andrew was instructed to snag an Obama.

Kudos to the Griffins for both the cool campaign items and a pretty accurate poll. Alas, the team didn't repeat the promotion this year, so you'll have to wait until Tuesday night to learn the winner.

Sunday, November 06, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Richard Nixon, John Kennedy and one of the closest elections ever

Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time takes us back to 1960, one of the closest elections ever, hotly debated to this day.

Sen. John F, Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon were separated by 112,827 votes, a 0.17 percent difference.

Kennedy's electoral vote margin was larger, 303 to 219. But consider that six states -- Hawaii, Illinois, Missouri, California, New Mexico and New Jersey -- were won by less than 1 percent, and five of the six went to Kennedy. Switch a couple of those states around and the electoral vote gets closer or changes hands.

There continues to be some talk about voting in Chicago, and Texas where there were some counties in Texas where there were more votes counted than there were registered voters. Both states went to Kennedy.

But Kennedy also lost 14 electoral votes in the South, where "unpledged Democratic electors" were on the ballot. Southern Democrats were opposed to the civil rights and voting rights platforms in the national party's platform, and electors instead cast their votes for Virginia Sen. Harry F. Byrd, a segregationist who wasn't even running.

A couple cool fast facts: The 1960 election was the first in which 50 states participated, as Alaska and Hawaii joined the union the year before. Both had three electoral votes. Alaska went to Nixon and Hawaii to Kennedy.

The election also was the first to feature presidential debates, where a tanned and relaxed Kennedy is said to have gained an advantage over Nixon, who had just spent two weeks in the hospital because of an injured knee, sweated and declined makeup.

As for collectibles, there are lots of Kennedy items to be found. He's a popular president and there are many reproductions of his famous pins out there.

You don't see too many affordable pins with photos of Kennedy with running mate Lyndon Johnson and Nixon with Henry Cabot Lodge.

Saturday, November 05, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Thomas Eagleton, vice presidential candidate for 18 days in 1972

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time focuses not on George McGovern, but on his running mate for 18 days.

The Democrats were in serious disarray in 1972. Incumbent Richard Nixon was cruising to re-election, and the Dems endured a rough and tumble run-up to the convention.

McGovern in the primaries was stung by a Robert Novak column quoting an unnamed senator who said McGovern favored amnesty for war deserters, abortion and legalizing marijuana. But he prevailed.

Facing likely defeat against Nixon, McGovern struggled to find a running mate. Eventually he settled on Missouri Sen. Thomas Eagleton. At the rowdy convention, Eagleton wasn't declared the winner until 1:51 a.m. He and McGovern weren't able to give their acceptance speeches until 2 a.m. So much for prime time.

Things got worse from there. After about two weeks, Eagleton confirmed whispers that he once suffered from depression and had undergone electric shock therapy -- a fact he kept from McGovern.

McGovern said he backed his running mate "1,000 percent," which lasted about a week. Eagleton withdrew from the ticket following the national uproar, replaced by Robert Sargent Shriver.

Eagleton had a distinguished career in the Senate until 1987, and continued as an attorney, commentator and professor in St. Louis.

After Eagleton's 2007 death, Novak revealed the source of the anonymous quote that hurt McGovern in the primaries: Thomas Eagleton.

Given the narrow window of his time on the ticket, finding campaign pins featuring both McGovern and Eagleton can be a challenge. That makes the single one I've found to be a favorite.

Friday, November 04, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: McKinley and Bryan, a study in contrasts

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time takes us all the way back to 1896 -- my oldest collectible! -- and a study in contrasts.

Ohio Gov. William McKinley squared off against Democrat William Jennings Bryan.

McKinley raised $3.5 million, which at the time was a staggering amount of money, spending five times more than his challenger.

McKinley also didn't leave his home much, conducting a "front porch" campaign, with more than 500,000 people heading to Canton.

Bryan went completely in the opposite direction. He criss-crossed the nation by train appearing before millions of people. He was a famously gifted speaker and it was a novelty for people to see a presidential candidate in person.

He gave more than 500 speeches, including 36 in one day.

McKinley won in a fairly close election, with 51 percent of the vote, though it was pretty decisive in the Electoral College.

McKinley's running mate was Garret Hobart of New Jersey, who, in 1899, became the sixth vice president to die in office. That paved the way for Theodore Roosevelt to be added to the ticket the following year.

Bryan lost to the McKinley-Roosevelt team in 1900, and lost again to William Howard Taft in 1908.

I know the McKinley pin is from 1896 because it includes Hobart, and is actually a stud, designed to fit in a button hole. It's the oldest campaign treasure in my collection.

I can't tell which election the Bryan pin is from, though the color makes me suspect it's one of the later contests.

Thursday, November 03, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: The president known simply as 'W'

We've had presidents known by three initials -- JFK, LBJ and FDR -- and some known two initials -- like TR -- but I can think of just one know by one letter -- W, pronounced "dub-ya."
Today's campaign collectibles from a calmer time brings us back to George W. Bush, who was the subject of some very cool things!
I've had the opportunity to see President Bush twice as a candidate in 2000, twice during the 2004 campaign, a number of times arriving at the airport and at least twice as a former president.
I've picked up some neat collectibles along the way. Aside from the "Battling Bush" we discussed last week, I've got a cool talking, moving figure.
It's got two buttons. Press one and you get an inspirational quote. The other, marked "funny," gives you one of the president's occasional verbal missteps.
The campaign pins are among my favorite of the modern era. They're just nice photos.

The signature is from the president's book "Decision Points." He appeared at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and signed some copies of the book that were available after his discussion.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Lopsided loss leads to scarce Cox-Roosevelt pins

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time takes us all the way back to 1920, a lopsided battle between two newspapermen and among the rarest of campaign buttons.
Republican Warren Harding was roundly expected to trounce Democrat James Cox.
Harding, running on an "America First" platform, won a 26.2 percent popular vote victory, still a record.
Democrats didn't spend much on what they knew was a lost cause, and as a result, didn't produce many campaign items, like pins.
Good-condition pins, especially those with photos of a Cox with running mate Franklin D. Roosevelt, are among the most sought after and expensive.

I found a more affordable, roughed up version of a pin with just the names after years of searching. It's among my favorites.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Campaign collectibles from a calmer time: Alf Landon's sunflowers

Today's campaign collectible from a calmer time involves a blowout involving Franklin Roosevelt.
In 1936, FDR was on the winning side. But our focus today is on his challenger, Kansas Gov. Alf Landon.
The sunflower is the Kansas state flower, and Landon incorporated it in many of his pins. This one, with the felt, is my favorite.
(Yes, I know this looks more like a black-eyed Susan than a sunflower. Hush.)
Anyway, Landon apparently didn't travel much during the campaign and didn't offer too many views that differed from those set in place by Roosevelt.
The 1920 election was the most lopsided in terms of popular vote, this one was the most lopsided in terms of electoral votes. Landon took just two states -- Maine and Vermont -- with a combined eight votes.

Note that among the 46 other states that Roosevelt took was the sunflower-filled Kansas.