The Button Lens
5:29 pm
Thu November 1, 2012

The Button Man: This Job Brought To You By Mitt Romney

Listen to a sound postcard: A moment in the life of Marvin Francis.
Marvin Francis, 44, graphic designer and political button salesman outside of a recent rally for former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney
Credit Photo by Kenny Malone

Marvin Francis crouched over and dug into a yellow and forest green La Salle High School miniature duffel bag. "'NObama'; 'You Lie,'" he read from a pile of oversized red, white and blue buttons. A small crowd peaked over his shoulders, holding five and ten dollar bills at their sides.

"I think that's all the selection I have left. And 'Obama Sucks,'" he added. "That's the only other one that I have that I didn't want to put out 'cause there's too many young kids."

These are the wares of a man who knows how to make a buck (or five) at a Mitt Romney rally. The 44-year-old graphic designer and political entrepreneur sells an array of buttons: one for five dollars, three for ten.

"Get your Romney/Ryan buttons," he shouted  over post-rally traffic. "Support my Romney created job! The first of twelve-million!"

What set Francis apart from the other swag hawkers at the BankUnited Romney rally was his command of political memes and an ability to kick up business by rallying for Romney.

"I'm like a politician," Francis laughs. "You know, whichever way the crowd is going, I'm going with them."

Francis is just as apt to show up at an Obama event as one for Romney. And he's just eager to take advantage of a Romney gaff as a Romney catchphrase, "current events definitely sell buttons: Don't Fire Big Bird." This was a button Francis created in response to Mitt Romney's standout Sesame Street reference during the first presidential debate. "I'm sorry Jim (Lehrer)," Romney said, "I'm going to stop the subsidy to PBS. I'm going to stop other things. I like PBS. I love Big Bird... But I'm not going to keep on spending money on things to borrow money from China to pay for."

Marvin Francis feeds on the fringes of the political world. Being an outsider has given him a unique perspective on the American electorate.

"There's negative people and that sells, but I mean by and large the more positive stuff sells the most," he said. "I think we want to be positive and sometimes we want to be negative. Just depends on what mood you're in and who you are and what kind of day you've had."