WASHINGTON - As Campaign '08 rages on and Hillary, Rudy, Barack and Mitt buttons dot the political landscape, a deeply unpopular President Bush is proving that he may be going but he's clearly not forgotten.
Key chain-sized clocks that count down the remaining days, hours, minutes, and seconds until the end of the Bush administration have become hot items for Democrats - and some Republicans - who probably don't hum "Never Can Say Goodbye" when they think of Bush.
"The clocks give people hope. It's a countdown to a new start, a fresh beginning," said Vince Ponzo, a 33-year-old New York City Democrat who began selling the key chain-sized digital clocks shortly after Bush's second inauguration in 2004. "We've sold about 110,000."
Business has been so good that Ponzo started selling larger desktop and wall-sized countdown clocks at his www.backwardsbush.com Web site.
He said he began selling the clocks - made in China - as a novelty item, but he soon discovered that they took on a cause-like identity, with lawmakers and celebrities flashing them as a sign of their political discontent.
Hillary and Bill Clinton each have Bush countdown clocks, given to them as gifts. So do New Mexico governor and Democratic presidential candidate Bill Richardson, Comedy Central comedian Stephen Colbert and actress Susan Sarandon.
Ponzo's clocks are just one item in a booming anti-Bush paraphernalia industry that seems to grow as Bush's time in office shrinks.
"It's unusually high in the quantity, but understandable given the quality of this president," said Ted Hake, owner of Hake's Americana & Collectibles and a political memorabilia buff who bought six countdown clocks for friends. "It really is a new high in pre-election, goodbye, out with the old, in with the new stuff."
But the countdown to the end of the Bush administration means different things to different people. Shortly after he became White House Chief of Staff, Joshua Bolten gave reverse-counting clocks to senior administration staff to remind them that "we have time to accomplish big things and not enough (time) to waste," said Emily Lawrimore, a White House spokeswoman.
Lawrimore declined to comment on the anti-Bush clocks other than to say, "We are focused on accomplishing important work in the remainder of the administration."
In addition to Pozono's backwardsbush.com, there are sites like www.bushslastday.com, which sells its own countdown clocks, 01-20-09 golf balls, drinking glasses with 01-20-09 on the front and "But Who's Counting" on the back, and Fire Bush hot sauce (use liberally, its instructions say).
"It's a cottage industry," said Bryan Coonerty, the Democratic vice mayor of Santa Cruz, Calif., and vice president of Bookshop Santa Cruz, which sells anti-Bush items on nationalnightmare.com. "It's the cornerstone of our business. We've sold between 35,000 to 40,000 clocks."
But Coonerty and others realize that their Bush-bashing business is approaching its term-limited end. Ponzo said that he's frequently asked by customers whether their clocks will chime or make noise when they count down to zero.
"No," he tells them. "You get a new president."
Coonerty said 01-20-09 will be a mixed blessing for him and his business.
"Personally, I'll be ecstatic not having Bush in the White House, but our business will fall off a bit," he said. "It's a price I'm willing to pay."