Mark the days with a candidate calendar

December 03, 2007|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Reporter

Too many candidates. Too few calendars.

If you were hoping to chart the coming year with a wall calendar spotlighting your favorite presidential candidate, and that candidate isn't Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain or Rudy Giuliani, you're out of luck.

Only those four aspirants (out of 16 Democrats and Republicans in the field) are featured in "Countdown to Victory" calendars, offered for the first time at Borders, Waldenbooks and Day by Day Calendar kiosks in malls.

So much for democracy. The other presidential hopefuls just aren't pin-up material in this series, published by Andrews McMeel, known for its gift books, calendars, stationery and toys.

There's no John Edwards getting a haircut, or Dennis Kucinich sighting a UFO, or Bill Richardson hawking salsa, or Tom Tancredo holding back the Mexican masses, or Fred Thompson in full Adm. Joshua Painter jacket in The Hunt for Red October.

For that matter, the 16-month calendars are dryly straightforward. Each month brings a new head shot, together with quotes ("When you are attacked, you have to deck your opponent" -- Clinton) and unattributed quips ("Has anybody seen my constitutional rights?")

No embarrassing photos or foot-in-mouth comments mock the calendar subjects, unlike what you'll find in the George W. Bush Countdown 2008 calendar, published by Sourcebooks and promoted as "a reminder each day through January 20, 2009, of why we'll be glad W. and his cronies are gone."

The four calendar subjects were selected last March because they looked like front-runners at the time, according to Andrews McMeel publicist Tammie Barker.

"Obviously, it's very hard for people to look in the future," says Sharon Manitta, communications director for Kucinich. In the coming months, "the calendar company may be very surprised who the frontrunners are in the Democratic Party."

Besides, Manitta adds, "The Kucinich campaign could have given them some very nice pictures for their calendar."

Each Countdown to Victory calendar presumes the triumph of its subject and culminates with a January 2009 banner headline proclaiming "She's in!" or "He's in!" (Because Giuliani isn't pictured in any of his drag getups, there will be no gender confusion should he win.) No one at Andrews McMeel is willing to predict the actual winner, Barker says.

The countdown calendars are an exercise in elective obsolescence. Andrews McMeel is narrowly hedging its bets that one out of the four featured candidates will win. But before placing your hopes and dreams and $13.99 on any of the calendars, you might want to consider a cute dog or Ugly Betty calendar instead.

It's a given that most consumers, unless they buy all four calendars, won't get their money's worth. And even if they do buy all four, it's a leap of faith to assume that a particular calendar girl or boy will win. If none does, that's four out of four calendars destined for the "wishful thinking" dustbin of history.

"We're doing our best to make sure those calendars are worthless in 2009," says Jesse Benton, communications director for Republican candidate Ron Paul.

Nationally, the Clinton calendar is outselling the others by "almost 2-to-1 over Obama, then Giuliani and last McCain," according to Dan Boston, vice president for calendars at Andrews McMeel.

That's fine with Isaac Baker, spokesman for Clinton's campaign. "The more people read about Hillary Clinton, the more they like her," he says.

Naturally, certain countdown calendars may have greater staying power than others. That will become more apparent as caucuses and primaries take place. Then, after the Democratic convention in August, either the Obama or Clinton calendar (or possibly both!) may lose currency.

The Giuliani and/or McCain calendars could face the same fate once the Republican convention concludes in early September. By then, just two calendars at the most will retain their relevance through Election Day. If you don't own one of those, you'll be stuck with an outmoded calendar through the next January. Imagine having to flip the pages month to month and gazing yet again on the hopeful visage of your defeated candidate of choice.

After Election Day on Nov. 4, only one calendar subject (if he or she makes it that far) can claim victory -- unless a recount postpones the results, allowing an opposing subject a few more days as America's calendar idol.

Manitta offers an alternative gift for would-be calendar customers: "Don't buy a calendar; buy a hanging chad election machine for a present. Now there's something that will be a unique piece of memorabilia."

The machines, relics of the 2000 election in Florida, are for sale on Kucinich's Web site for $249.95 and come with a replica butterfly ballot.

stephanie.shapiro@baltsun.com

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