Bobblehead of State? The political memorabilia market sends a tough message to Hillary Clinton's presidential candidacy: Soon after key Democrats resolved the status of disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan, the price of Clinton paraphernalia plummeted in a prominent location.
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Bobblehead of State?

Discounted Hillary Clinton bobblehead dolls at a kiosk at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C. Karen Grigsby Bates/NPR hide caption

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Karen Grigsby Bates/NPR

Discounted Hillary Clinton bobblehead dolls at a kiosk at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C.

Karen Grigsby Bates/NPR

You don't have to listen to the inside-the-beltway talking heads to understand which way the Democratic race for president is going. Just check out the bobblehead dolls.

Before Barack Obama had amassed enough delegates to claim that he had sewn up the Democratic nomination, you could tell something was up by cruising the gift shops at Ronald Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., a couple of days ago.

As beltway insiders bloviate about their political analyses — displayed on flat-screen televisions scattered around the airport terminal — my eyes drifted to one of the kiosks selling memorabilia. I saw something that might anger and worry Hillary Clinton's supporters: Overnight, just about all the Clinton merchandise had been marked down by 50 percent.

Half price for the Hillary bobbleheads, with their neatly coiffed blond hair, wide blue eyes and blue skirts. (It was an odd decision not to use the pantsuits she's famous for.) Half off the pink T-shirts with a smiling Hillary on the front above "Madame President" in fancy script. And half off for the black T-shirts with Bill Clinton's face over the words "First Gentleman."

By contrast, the Barack Obama merchandise was still full price.

Lucite containers held plenty of candidates' buttons. The John McCain bin was mostly full. Clinton's was mostly full. Obama's was almost empty.

At the cash register, there was more half-off merchandise right next to the politically opinionated tins of tiny breath mints featuring George Bush (Impeachmints and National Embarrassmints), Dick Cheney, Lewis Libby, Karl Rove and Tom DeLay.

Who decides what's on sale?

"Not me," said the clerk behind the counter, with a shrug. "I guess they think she's not going to sell so much sometime soon ... so they are on sale now."

What's discounted depends on where you shop. Rounding a corner, I saw a newsstand that prominently displayed deep-blue McCain T-shirts. Rows of McCain '08 bumper stickers were stacked in the shop window. Since McCain is now almost certainly going to win the Republican nomination, those probably won't be marked down anytime soon. And, win or lose, they can sell as collector's items afterward.

I'm hoping the bobblehead manufacturers will make first spouse dolls soon. We've seen plenty of (Bill) Clinton and Laura Bush bobbleheads over the years. (Some people would contend that Laura's customary nod as she moves through crowds is a homage to the bobble doll.)

But guys, if you could just see your way to "bobble-ize" Michelle Obama and Cindy McCain, you'd make collectors very happy.

I'm seeing Michelle in one of her signature Jackie O sheaths and her trademark pearls. And if you don't put Cindy in that sleek purple Escada suit, you should probably think about doing sports figures. Less margin for error.