President Obama and Mitt Romney will raise $1 billion each this election. They will spend almost all of it. It is impossible not to wonder, when contemplating $2 billion blown on ads that blare at empty rooms while people get snacks from the kitchen, why didn't the campaigns just buy us all presents instead. The Atlantic Wire has been thinking about this a lot because this Wire writer loves presents. So, allow us to demonstrate what we could have gotten out of this election deal if we'd all pledged to vote for whoever months ago in exchange for gifts.
The population of America is about 311,591,917. That $2 billion doesn't go very far if we all get gifts -- we'd only get about $6.42 each. But everyone loves presents, even if they're small. Obama and Romney could have competed for America's votes by giving us all the accessories needed for a fall hike, such as these patriotic USA socks ($3.50 from Amazon.com), plus some Ocean Potion sunscreen ($1.99 from drugstore.com), and some off-brand chapstick (99 cents). A few cents would be left over to put in those machines that stamp things on pennies.
But of course, all Americans do not count in an election year. The only Americans whose votes really count live in nine states whose populations are almost evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats. In those swing states -- Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin -- there are approximately 66,287,866 people. That means they each would get $30.17 of the $2 billion. The presidential candidates could treat them to a fun 90s nostalgia night in, with a Reality Bites DVD ($6.37), a Lisa Loeb CD ($7.79), a smiley face t-shirt ($12.99), and a "whatever" key chain ($2.99).