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When it comes to merch, Ted’s no filla-buster.
Republican presidential hopeful and soup aficionado Ted Cruz is many things to many people: a liar to Donald Trump, an anointed prophet in the eyes of Glenn Beck, the cause of death for five young adults in northern California between the late 1960s and early ’70s. But one thing he has yet to receive praise for is perhaps his strongest asset: his on-point merch game.
Candidates running for president of the United States are required to hock as much merchandise as possible as a show of good faith to the gods of capitalism. Like all aspects of campaigning, some are just better at it than others.
Bernie Sanders, for example, has raked in millions of dollars from small donors despite having a weak offering on the merch front that has mostly failed to capitalize on the most iconic images to arise out of his campaign. His Birdie Sanders stickers were a limited offering only available to a few donors at the right time while the Vermont senator never once touched the Jumpman Bernie Sanders motif. This could be because Sanders just isn’t that into capitalism (he prefers a moral economic model) or it might be that he’s just not a big T-shirt guy.
Ted Cruz, on the other hand, is all in when it comes to politically charged novelty items. There’s seemingly nothing the Texas senator won’t put his name on. The Ted Cruz store is the online equivalent of pulling off of the highway and walking into a small-town truck stop that sells T-shirts with jokes that only the locals understand but are amusing just the same.
Currently, Cruz is pushing his spring gear the hardest. His store prominently features a $75 BBQ pack that includes a spatula, cooler, and beer koozie—which has also been rebranded as a beer “Cruzie,” because of course it has.
It’s part of a larger collection of tailgating and sports-themed paraphernalia that seem to focus primarily on football even though it’s the only major sport not currently in play. By kickoff of the 2016 football season, Cruz could already be out of the running for president.
Always the clever marketer, Cruz has opted not to specifically mention football despite selling a jersey that looks suspiciously like one that a football player might wear and a foam ball that is shaped an awful lot like a football.
In a true stroke of genius, he’s even labeled the beer holders with the phrase “Are You Ready for Some Cruzball?” It’s a question Cruz probably asks his friends every Sunday, thinking it to be a hilarious play on words, though no one has ever once answered “yes” when asked.
The best of Cruz is yet to come, however. On Friday, he unveiled his Trumpertantrums pack—a one-piece and bib for your favorite liberty-loving toddler that reads “Enough with the Trumpertantrums already!”
It doesn’t appear to be a thing Ted Cruz has ever actually said aloud, but was probably a zinger that he thought of three hours after a debate and decided it needed to go somewhere.
The Trump gear is Cruz’s true bread and butter when it comes to his merch, which is a great bit of hustle. It’s hard to sell Cruz to most people but it’s pretty easy to sell them on Anyone But Trump.
His campaign’s best bit of shade against the frontrunner is its Trump University shirt, which sports the slogan “I Applied to Trump University and All I Got Was This Shirt.” The shirt has been available since the March debate in which Cruz tried to make Trump’s failed and fraudulent school a central issue because the man just intuitively understands the importance of branding synergy.
Some have made the case that Cruz’s ability to wrangle delegates shows his competency as an executive and speaks to his qualifications to be president, but based on his merch game, he’d be the finest regional manager Spencer’s Gifts has ever had—though the sex toy section would probably be lacking under his leadership.
AJ Dellinger is a seasoned technology writer whose work has appeared in Digital Trends, International Business Times, and Newsweek. In 2018, he joined Gizmodo as the nights and weekend editor.