Even though Tuesday's Georgia primary probably won't determine the outcome of the presidential nominating process, voters can still show their support for a candidate through campaign merchandise.
That usually means yard signs and bumper stickers bearing the candidate's name or his smiling, confident picture. But there's more exclusive merchandise out there, the kind you buy if you're a die-hard supporter or memorabilia collector.
Golf balls, anyone? Basketball trading cards? How about a bottle of George W. Bush bottled water? It can all be yours via the Internet.
"This year the sales of campaign merchandise have just been exploding," says Ted Jackson, president of the Spaulding group, which has been selling Republican campaign merchandise since 1984. The organization is backing Texas Gov. George W. Bush.
Buyers can log on to www.georgewbushstore.com and become the proud owners of 12 bottles of "Bush for President" spring water for $18. It's also sold by the case: 24 bottles for $32.40.
Mr. Jackson says that the Bush bottled water -- a somewhat unconventional campaign item -- is a reflection of the candidate.
"Governor Bush is a different candidate, more youthful and athletic than the others," he says. "We wanted to promote something different for his campaign, and the water seemed like a good idea."
Mr. Jackson said the water is selling great.
Other unusual items available from Mr. Bush's "campaign store" include Bush golf balls and golf caps. And his is not the only campaign site where you can find interesting stuff.
At www.bradley2000store.com you'll find limited edition basketball trading cards depicting former U.S. Sen. Bill Bradley in his heyday as a player with the New York Knicks. A dozen cards cost $7, and a special framed, limited edition of 12 uncut cards on a sheet is $34.99. The Bradley merchandise site also offers mouse pads and hats along with the more conventional plastic buttons and pins.
Supporters of U.S. Sen. John McCain of Arizona can log on to www.mccain2000.com and buy a poster of the Republican candidate as a pilot in the Vietnam War. The price is $15.
The dullest merchandise may be offered by Vice President Al Gore. In the three Web stores on his official Web site (www.algore2000.com), the most unconventional items you can add to your cart are 17-ounce-size "Gore 2000" plastic cups at $1 apiece. (One can't help but wonder what would happen should you fill them with Mr. Bush's water.) Mr. Gore's supporters can get gold-plated tie slides and money-clips ($12 apiece), gold-plated cuff links ($16) and a neck-strap ID holder for $5.
Signs and stuff
If you're leaning toward Republican candidates, you can get a limited number of signs, stickers and pamphlets free from local campaign volunteers. Democratic supporters are advised to call the state campaign offices of Al Gore and Bill Bradley. Signs and stickers can't be found locally.
"The last couple of years candidates have spent more money on news advertising than they have on printing and distributing signs and bumper stickers," said Ron Schoeffler, chairman of the Democratic Party in Richmond County.
For free signs supporting Republican candidates call 863-3439 (for George W. Bush); 863-8270 (for John McCain); 738-8966 (for Alan Keyes). In some cases signs will only be available until the Georgia primary.
For information on where to get Democratic signs, call:
Al Gore's Georgia campaign office: (404) 874-0067 or Bill Bradley's Georgia campaign office: (912) 783-4154