- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 11, 2009

In the political paraphernalia department, “Yes, we can” is becoming “No, he can’t.”

Anti-Obama memorabilia — from T-shirts to bumper stickers to buttons — is increasingly emerging in the marketplace as the president’s economic and health care policies polarize supporters and detractors.

While “Mama for Obama” was a popular slogan during the 2008 election cycle, that design has been retooled with angry and fickle disenchantment: “To the Mama for Obama — thanks for the tax hike.” The “Audacity of Hope,” the title of Mr. Obama’s popular book, has been replaced by the “Audacity of Hype.”

“It really started peaking about a month ago,” said Amy Maniatis, vice president of marketing at the online seller Cafepress.com.

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“You see it as a direct response to some of the promising messages that happened a year ago. Whereas we had the campaign of Obama centered around hope, and it was a very optimistic message, now they’re asking: ‘How’s that hopey-changey thing going?’ ”

The Cafepress.com store, a cultural barometer of sorts for political and social expression, offers about 3 million Obama products, she said, but now is up to about 1 million that are “anti-Obama-oriented,” reflecting a “significant shift in the last couple of months than what was the trend a year ago.”

Pro-Obama gear is still selling well, she said, “but now we’re seeing a much larger swing toward the critical designs. It will be lighthearted as commentary on his gaffes as in ‘Acted Stupidly,’ ” a play on his remarks about the Cambridge, Mass., police officer who arrested Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., “or with folks reacting to headlines or what is going on with the economy.”

The political change in memorabilia mirrors the public-opinion divide on Mr. Obama as he moves to reform health care and attempts to revive the economy.

A poll of likely voters by Rasmussen Reports, released Thursday, found that 32 percent “strongly approve” of the way the president is doing his job, while 38 percent “strongly disapprove.” Overall, 49 percent at least ?somewhat approve? of his performance, and 51 percent at least somewhat disapprove.

Rasmussen Reports said 71 percent think Mr. Obama’s policies are causing the federal deficit to rise, while 54 percent said they think middle-class tax cuts are more important than additional spending on health care. Just one-third of likely voters ? 33 percent ? said America is heading in the right direction.

A Gallup Poll taken from July 31 to Aug. 3 found that the president’s approval rating was up to 56 percent from 52 percent three days earlier. The Gallup numbers, based on “three-day rolling averages,” had Mr. Obama’s approval up to 61 percent from July 17 to 19, reaching a low of 52 percent from July 27 to 29. Those numbers are down from his high point of a 69 percent average after he took office in January.

Gallup said the current rating is “about average” when compared with other presidents’ numbers measured since 1945 at this point in their terms.

Still, as the summer heats up with growing dissatisfaction, reflected in town-hall meetings and “tea party” gatherings nationwide, the political divide is providing an opportunity for online sellers.

On the Web site obamaseriously.com, black armbands and T-shirts proclaim “Obama - Killing Me Softly” and “Obama - Bankruptcy of America.” At conservativebuys.com, a white tank top bears the word “Delusional” above the wavy red-and-white-flag-striped logo used by the Obama campaign.

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