Nevada caucus: Capitalism rules, in speeches and merchandise

In Las Vegas, there’s always a way to make a quick buck. Craps. Keno. And this week, presidential campaigns.

As the Republican candidates descended on Sin City in advance of Saturday’s caucuses, Tommy Dastamanis was there waiting with a folding table and a trunk full of merchandise. The 28-year-old was laid off by a Florida resort a year ago. Unable to find work, he’s been trailing the campaigns since Iowa, selling buttons, bumper stickers and T-shirts – promoting the candidate of the moment.

Earlier this week, it was Mitt Romney at an evening rally. “Three for 10,” he shouted to supporters, shining a flashlight on a table full of buttons. One read: “Silly Democrat. Paychecks Are For Work.”

Dastamanis is, of course, a Democrat, a fact that he whispered to a reporter while counting a large roll of dollar bills.

“I don’t have any cash,” said one woman, having set her sights on a Romney sweatshirt.

“We do take checks,” Dastamanis said.

The biggest seller: a white button featuring Romney’s face. (“You can sign it easy,” Dastamanis explained.) The biggest dud: the Romney camouflage baseball cap. That seemed more like Ron Paul’s crowd. (“They support the hell out of that guy. They buy a lot of [stuff].”)

Dastamanis voted for Hillary Rodham Clinton four years ago and said he’s unhappy with President Obama. The Republican campaign, he said, has been its own kind of stimulus package.

“I would definitely vote for a Republican this time around,” he said.

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