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Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama are hanging out with Darth Vader, rubber spiders and plastic skulls for a few more days.

Political masks, especially those of the two presidential candidates, are popular Halloween disguises during election years and are proving popular again this year.

This year, Halloween falls five days before the Nov. 4 general election. Conventional wisdom is that sales of one candidate’s mask over the other are an early sign of who will win the election.

One local retailer and an online mask seller say Obama’s mask is the more popular seller this year, while another retailer said masks for both candidates have been selling briskly.

“I think we’ve sold more Obama masks,” said Jameson Hensel, owner of Spirit Halloween, in the Village Shopping Center, Davenport, “so we’ll see what happens.”

Shelley Chappel, owner of Halloween Express, 1010 E. Kimberly Road, Davenport, said she had a waiting list for people wanting to buy McCain masks after receiving a shipment of Obama masks earlier this week. She didn’t expect either to stay in stock very long and likely won’t get any more before Halloween.

“Last election, it was pretty close between Bush and (Democrat John) Kerry,” said John Bottomley, owner of Halloween-Mask.com. “This year is breaking down completely for Obama.”

Bottomley’s business is based in Waxhaw, N.C., “a blue county surrounded by red.”

His Web site features a wide selection of politicians, including Republicans Mitt Romney and Rudolph Giuliani, as well as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Presidential icons Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy as well as Obama, McCain, Bush and Bill and Hillary Clinton are also available on his Web site, though now most aren’t deliverable by Halloween.

Amid plastic battle axes and Star Wars light sabers at Halloween Express are masks of McCain and Obama, both Clintons, California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Bush, always-popular Nixon and a donkey head wearing an Uncle Sam-style, red, white and blue hat.

“It is safe to say we haven’t sold too many of George W. Bush,” she said. “It’s surprising that we see as many Bill and Hillary Clinton masks as we do, but it is usually a man and a woman who are walking out together.”

One mask you won’t find is Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, McCain’s GOP running mate. She didn’t arrive on the national political scene until late August, too late for mass mask production, so stores like Halloween Express and Spirit Halloween don’t have any masks in her image.

Hensel said he steers people wanting a Palin look toward a wig that shares her hairstyle and glasses similar to what the vice presidential hopeful wears.

“We have a wig that works,” he said.

Bottomley is surprised at the sudden resurgence in popularity the JFK mask has had on his Web site.

“We are looking for hope, and Kennedy came from a time of hope,” he said. “I think the Kennedy mask is selling this year because of the national emotional state.”

Bottomley’s Web site and Chappel’s store also have Saddam Hussein.

Halloween Express also carries a mask that bears a passing resemblance to Osama bin Laden.

“I try not to push the terrorist masks, but some people come in wanting them,” Chappel said.

Kurt Allemeier can be contacted at (563) 383-2360 or kallemeier@qctimes.com.

Comment on this story at qctimes.com. © Copyright 2008, The Quad-City Times, Davenport, IA

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