Ever since the 2004 presidential election, we have been tracking the strength of the different potential Democratic nominees for President in 2008 through a simple but effective measure: the number of bumper stickers, pins, posters and shirts that we sell in support of various Democratic contenders in the 2008 race. Instead of the easy but weak and changeable indicator of an opinion given over the telephone to a stranger, our own system for tracking candidates measures the kind of support that counts – whether ordinary Americans are willing to spend money to support a particular candidate in a visible way.
A lot has changed in the past six months, as some presidential contenders promote themselves to candidate status and others remove themselves from the race. So let’s not just look at the sales rankings for just the past month. Instead, let’s take a deep breath and look at changes in the race from July 2006 through January 2007. During this time, which Democratic presidential contenders had gear supporting them ordered most often? And who were the also-rans? Here are the stats with no further ado or fuss:
Contenders who haven’t ruled out a run, who garnered some share of our Election 2008 sales, but whose sales consistently remained in the doldrums (never rising above 3%), have been Barbara Boxer, Wesley Clark, Christopher Dodd, Mike Gravel, John Lewis, Blanche Lincoln, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Al Sharpton, and Tom Vilsack.
As Barack Obama began to make his intentions to run for president clear in September 2006, his star rose quickly. Through the following three months, Obama remained fixed in the firmament, well above all other contenders. But despite his formation of a presidential exploratory committee in the month of January 2007, Barack Obama’s dominance was chipped away during that time. Obama is still the buyers’ favorite, but he sank in share last month, and the big reason for that was Hillary Clinton‘s parallel announcement that she was “in, and in it to win.” Bill Richardson‘s January announcement brought him a surprisingly strong relative surge, well above the media’s third-place favorite, John Edwards — who like Dennis Kucinich found his December announcement boost just didn’t last. Above the definitely running Edwards and Kucinich sits Al Gore. While sales of items supporting the former Vice President are not at the huge levels of summer 2006 that followed the release of An Inconvenient Truth, they remain competitive despite Gore’s persistent refusal to either confirm or deny that he will enter the presidential race. If Gore were to declare his intention to run for president, would his share of committed, visible public support shoot up again, or would he run into a 21st glass ceiling set by the popular Clinton and Obama campaigns? (And what does former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack have to do to get the public attention he seeks? Try out for American Idol?)
Every additional bumper sticker, button, refrigerator magnet, poster, postcard, or t-shirt put out into the world makes a personal public endorsement of a presidential contender. Every additional item we sell will bump a contender up in the next month’s rankings, building online momentum as well. Whose supporters are most numerous and most motivated? We will just keep on keeping track of these Democratic contendersâ€™ popularity as the 2008 elections creep ever closer; look for another release of tracking data in a monthâ€™s time.
In the meantime, why donâ€™t you tell us who youâ€™d like to see running in 2008: Hillary Clinton? Al Gore? Barack Obama? Bill Richardson? Or someone else? Let the great (d)emocratic and (D)emocratic debate begin!