Buttons And Babies: Why Do Campaigns Love Them?

  • Evan Smith of Sarasota, Fla., sells buttons featuring Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann during a rally at a GOP picnic in Humboldt, Iowa, in August.
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    Evan Smith of Sarasota, Fla., sells buttons featuring Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann during a rally at a GOP picnic in Humboldt, Iowa, in August.
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Bachmann holds 6-month-old Jane Morrissey as her mother, Heather Morrissey, snaps a photo at a rally in Costa Mesa, Calif., in September.
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    Bachmann holds 6-month-old Jane Morrissey as her mother, Heather Morrissey, snaps a photo at a rally in Costa Mesa, Calif., in September.
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
  • Campaign buttons are on display as former Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the National Sprint Car Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, on New Year's Eve.
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    Campaign buttons are on display as former Sen. Rick Santorum speaks at the National Sprint Car Museum in Knoxville, Iowa, on New Year's Eve.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman kisses 5-month-old Mallory Blais during the Salem-Windham Republican Labor Day picnic in Salem, N.H., in September.
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    Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman kisses 5-month-old Mallory Blais during the Salem-Windham Republican Labor Day picnic in Salem, N.H., in September.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • A curious toddler (far right) touches Texas Gov. Rick Perry while the presidential hopeful greets supporters at the Main Street Cafe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in December.
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    A curious toddler (far right) touches Texas Gov. Rick Perry while the presidential hopeful greets supporters at the Main Street Cafe in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in December.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • A Newt Gingrich supporter sports a campaign button at a town hall meeting in New York's Staten Island.
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    A Newt Gingrich supporter sports a campaign button at a town hall meeting in New York's Staten Island.
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  • Leah Debries wears a fake tattoo on her arm in support of Texas Rep. Ron Paul during a campaign stop at the downtown Des Moines Marriott Hotel in Iowa.
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    Leah Debries wears a fake tattoo on her arm in support of Texas Rep. Ron Paul during a campaign stop at the downtown Des Moines Marriott Hotel in Iowa.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • An even younger Paul "supporter," Raymond Landegent, holds a sign as he sits on his father's lap during a town hall meeting in Le Mars, Iowa.
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    An even younger Paul "supporter," Raymond Landegent, holds a sign as he sits on his father's lap during a town hall meeting in Le Mars, Iowa.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets Ethan Anderson and his daughter, 7-month-old Liliana Anderson, after a campaign meet-and-greet at The Button Factory restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa.
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    Texas Gov. Rick Perry greets Ethan Anderson and his daughter, 7-month-old Liliana Anderson, after a campaign meet-and-greet at The Button Factory restaurant in Muscatine, Iowa.
    Brendan Hoffman/Getty Images
  • Campaign buttons for former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain grace a supporter's jacket in Rock Hill, S.C., just before Cain ended his campaign.
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    Campaign buttons for former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain grace a supporter's jacket in Rock Hill, S.C., just before Cain ended his campaign.
    Richard Shiro/AP
  • A young boy yawns as Perry speaks at Adams Street Espresso in Creston, Iowa.
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    A young boy yawns as Perry speaks at Adams Street Espresso in Creston, Iowa.
    Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
  • Hailey Everett, 2, takes a campaign sign with her after attending a rally for Michele Bachmann in Costa Mesa, Calif., in September.
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    Hailey Everett, 2, takes a campaign sign with her after attending a rally for Michele Bachmann in Costa Mesa, Calif., in September.
    Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

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While monitoring news photos from the Republican presidential race, we couldn't help but notice two recurring elements iconic to election images: buttons and babies.

It's a weird, weird cycle: People love images of babies; parents shove their babies at politicians; politicians throw photographers a bone with a Kodak moment; and the photographers eat it up. Does it somehow help the candidate's image? Does it tug at the heartstrings of the viewers, or do they cringe with the sight of another seemingly staged moment of cuteness?

Regardless, the tradition will undoubtedly continue, as long as we have politicians and supporters toting their newborns and toddlers. Will young Leah Debries one day ask her father why her arm had a temporary tattoo announcing the "Ron Paul Revolution"? Perhaps one day these disenfranchised little people will be granted suffrage.

The buttons range from humorous messages like "Hot Chicks Vote Republican," to more caustic messages like the one directed toward the president, exclaiming, "One Big A - - Mistake America." Believe it or not, there was even a time when button manufacturers were worried for their business.

On Oct. 7, 1976, the Spokane Daily Chronicle in Washington state ran an Associated Press article with the headline "Political Buttons are Vanishing." In it, they quote Frank Sitzberger, the then-president of Adcraft Manufacturing Co., bemoaning the loss of the electoral souvenir. " 'I like Ike,' " he said, referring to the iconic button for Dwight Eisenhower. "That got him elected."

"[If] you don't see the button," he said, "you don't get the discussion and the issues don't get aired."

In today's media and social-media age, the message is often broadcast, tweeted or read online — it is most likely not coming to our attention in the form of a plastic button. But you can't pin an electronic message as elegantly on your lapel as you can a traditional pin that asks: "Is America Ready?" That one was from Herman Cain.


Ed. Note: This text originally stated that an article ran in the Spokane Daily Chronicle. It has been edited to reflect that it was actually an Associated Press article.

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