For a nation inured to political polls, it is refreshing to measure who is winning by the popularity of Halloween masks, chicken wing sales and bleacher seat preferences.
Take, for example, the Spirit Halloween Mark Presidential Index, which shows Barack Obama masks outselling Mitt Romney masks by nearly 2 to 1. Spirit Halloween CEO Steven Silverstein claims the index, run in conjunction with Rock the Vote and based on sales at its 1,000 stores nationwide, "has proven to be a consistent and accurate predictor of the next president for nearly two decades."
Then there is the Luster Premium White Study of Presidential Teeth. The oral care company explains, perhaps with a smile, in a press release that its analysis of pictures dating back to 1982, including adjustment for "ambient lighting and environmental conditions," has determined who has the brightest teeth and will win the presidency. Bill Clinton outshone George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole. George W. Bush sported brighter enamel than Al Gore and John Kerry. Barring 11th-hour dental work, Obama has the gleam over Romney.
Boston Market offers customers a choice between right and left chicken wing bowls.
California Tortilla is sponsoring a Burrito Bowl Election contest pitting an Obama chicken teriyaki luau against a Romney Mexican mitt-loaf. The teriyaki luau is leading the mitt-loaf 52-48 percent.
7-Eleven give its customers a choice between red or blue coffee cups to signify their political sympathies and posts running totals on its website. For the politically indifferent, there are "non-partisan cups." Obama's blue cup is outpacing Romney's red cup by a 60-40 percent margin. You also can view local results. Obama leads Romney in Portland 64-36 percent, but Romney holds sway in Reedsport and Woodburn by 53-47 percent.
The Stockton Ports minor league baseball team staged a July 4 promotion involving bleacher cushions with Obama's face on one side and Romney's on the other. Fans were instructed to sit on the side they wanted to lose, then tweet their preference on either #SitonMitt or #BunsonObama. The team didn't report its findings, but did have a great firework show.
NPR's Linton Weeks asked renowned marketer Philip Kotler whether commercializing the presidential campaign trivialized its importance. "I can't think of these arrangements cheapening any further the political process, which is at so low a standard today," Kotler said. "If they get people of different persuasions to start a conversation, they might be helpful."