Face race

Romney and Obama masks at the Spirit Halloween store in Cherry Hill Mall. But who's No. 1 by far in mask sales? A certain 42d president.
Romney and Obama masks at the Spirit Halloween store in Cherry Hill Mall. But who's No. 1 by far in mask sales? A certain 42d president. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)

In the presidential Halloween mask stakes, it's Obama by an ear … or Romney by a tooth.

Posted: November 01, 2012

There's an old political saying that "Signs don't vote," meaning that it doesn't matter how many placards adorn lawns and windows come Election Day.

But the folks at Spirit Halloween believe that mask sales can foreshadow the vote, and they've correctly predicted the winner of presidential races since 1996 on that factor alone.

This year's front-runner? President Obama. And like the actual election, it's a close race.

"So far, Obama's in the lead . . . . It's still too early to tell who's going to be the next president based on our sales," said Lisa Barr, the company's senior director of marketing, in a mid-October interview. Of course, you can poll on your own during Wednesday's trick-or-treating. "The greatest variance was between Bill Clinton and Bob Dole in 1996."

But don't despair, GOP fans. The website costumecraze.com reported just the opposite: The Mitt Romney mask, available for about $15, was outselling Obama (there are several options from $13 to nearly $18) by 142 percent.

But the website's favorite, as is true for many Americans, is none other than Bubba.

"Bill Clinton's mask is the most popular this season, outselling Barack Obama by an amazing (and perhaps surprising?) 700 percent!" said Jeff Wiseman, a spokesman for the Utah-based company, in an e-mail. "And Bill Clinton is outselling Mitt Romney by 231 percent."

Political Halloween costumes are always popular, but never more so than in an election year, costume industry insiders say. In our increasingly polarized country, they offer the chance to show party loyalty - or mock the opposition.

"It's really all about having fun," Barr said.

At Old City's Pierre's Costumes, the Romney mask was on back order and the Obama recently had been restocked, said Bobby Goodrich, the shop's head designer. She has noticed increased sales of patriotic costumes and accessories, such as Uncle Sam hats and tricolor boas.

"We've had a lot of requests for Joe Biden masks, but we haven't found a good one yet," she said.

While no one has asked about a Paul Ryan wig, vice presidential candidates also rate. Sarah Palin was especially popular in 2008 when she and John McCain headed the Republican ticket.

"We still sell our Sarah Palin wig. It's always done quite well," Goodrich said. "It's popular because it's an easy look to copy. People knew who you were because she has a distinctive silhouette."

And not all political costumes are literally politicians. After Romney mentioned PBS and Big Bird in the first debate, Pierre's Costumes found itself renting out its generic yellow bird costume at least 15 times in a month. Normally, it goes out once or twice.

"We've been asked about 'binders full of women,' " she said, referring to Romney's gaffe in the second debate.

While Pierre's doesn't carry such a costume, one can be found at headlinecostumes.com. The "Binder Full of Women" costume lists for the bargain price of $1 million. (Meant merely to draw people to the website, the description touts: "We were able to bring the price down by closing a bunch of holes in the costume tax code.")

"It's a little steep for non- 1-percenters, but we do offer free regular mail shipping," said J.D. Beebe, cofounder of the New York-based website. "No one's going to take us too seriously, but I'm sure you will see a ton of women carrying around binders this year."

Beebe's site doesn't carry Obama or Romney masks. He noted that Abe Lincoln costumes had always sold well, and this year's renewed interest in Lincoln might be inspired by the November release of Steven Spielberg's biographical film. Last year, the unusual pink hat that Princess Beatrice of York wore to the royal wedding was the site's biggest seller.

"People like costumes that pop on the back of current events," he said.

At the Spirit Halloween shop in the Cherry Hill Mall, the Obama and Romney masks are on display across from the zombie section. (Zombies are "trending hot this year," Barr noted.) Both masks play up the men's most prominent features: Obama's ears and Romney's teeth. One store employee said people like to put on the masks and then make them kiss or have mock debates.

On a recent Saturday evening, the store buzzed with customers and the masks drew lots of attention - but no sales. Medford resident Tony Iacone was shopping with his 9-year-old daughter, Paige. She wanted to try on the Romney mask but her father stopped her.

"Even if you support them, it's weird to walk around with someone else's face on," he said.

Ebony Adams of Northeast Philadelphia declared both masks "hideous," but, showing her political colors, said she'd wear an Obama before a Romney.

"Mitt Romney's is more scary," she said. "I almost feel bad for him."

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