Road to White House goes through toy box

Story highlights

  • Whose 'Battleship' will be sunk on Election Day?
  • The 'Etch A Sketch' moment still shaking things up
  • 'Big Bird' costumes a big seller this Halloween

When Mitt Romney accused President Barack Obama during Monday's debate of spending too little on the military by pointing out that the Navy has fewer ships now than it did in 1916, the president delivered his now-famous hashtag-worthy line: "we also have fewer horses and bayonets."

Explaining that aircraft carriers and nuclear submarines have essentially rendered certain naval ships unnecessary, the president told his Republican opponent: "The question is not a game of 'Battleship,' where we're counting ships," thus evoking memories of the popular board game.

"Battleship" was the second childhood favorite to come up in the debates. In the first, Romney talked about ending funding for public broadcasting, despite the fact that he "liked 'Big Bird'" from "Sesame Street." But they appreciate the attention.

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"Many of our brands, including 'Battleship,' are household favorites that get mentioned in many settings," a representative for toymaker Hasbro told CNN. "We are glad the president has played the game."

Risky Obama ground game strategy?
Risky Obama ground game strategy?


    Risky Obama ground game strategy?


Risky Obama ground game strategy? 03:36
Diaz-Balart: Romney will win Florida
Diaz-Balart: Romney will win Florida


    Diaz-Balart: Romney will win Florida


Diaz-Balart: Romney will win Florida 03:14
Strickland: Ohio will go for Obama
Strickland: Ohio will go for Obama


    Strickland: Ohio will go for Obama


Strickland: Ohio will go for Obama 04:33
Campaigns micro-target undecided voters
Campaigns micro-target undecided voters


    Campaigns micro-target undecided voters


Campaigns micro-target undecided voters 03:12

And the company licensed to sell "Big Bird" Halloween costumes couldn't be more pleased.

"This has absolutely become our biggest year ever for 'Big Bird' costumes," Maddie Gerety, brand manager at Disguise, a unit of toymaker Jakks, told CNNMoney. "If only we had a crystal ball to predict this was going to happen."

"Battleship" and "Big Bird" aren't the only childhood favorites to be resurrected during the campaign.

A new poll shows 55% of U.S. voters plan on voting for Obama and 45% for Romney on November 6.

But before you say that's way out of line with most polls showing a dead heat - Relax! We're talking about "Etch A Sketch's" national "Shake it Up, America" campaign's very informal online poll.

The seed for the "Shake it Up, America" campaign was planted when Romney's trusted adviser, Eric Fehrnstrom, likened the presidential race to an "Etch A Sketch" on CNN's "Early Start."

"I think you hit a reset button for the fall campaign. Everything changes," Fehrnstrom said. "It's almost like an "Etch A Sketch." You can kind of shake it up, and we start all over again."

The classic toy became a political icon overnight and the phrase "Etch A Sketch moment" has become a political catchphrase.

The drawing toy has since experienced a renaissance. Its maker, Ohio Art, has released themed red and blue "Etch A Sketches."

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Boxes of the Limited Edition 2012 Election "Etch A Sketches" state: "We have a left knob and a right knob for each political party. When we both work together, we can do loop de loops." The company maintains that its "political neutrality is unflappable" and that it's "stance on self-expression is unshakable."

Earlier this month, an art student who sculpted likenesses of Obama and Romney was named "Play-Doh" Artist of the Year.

Ian Williams, 21, a student at the Rhode Island School of Design, created busts of the candidates entirely out of "Play-Doh" -- contest rules called for each entrant to mold both the 2012 Democratic and Republican presidential candidates.

According to Hasbro, "Play-Doh's" parent company, judgment was based upon realism, craftsmanship, creativity, presentation and incorporation of the "Play-Doh" brand's personality.

Williams was named the first-ever Official "Play-Doh Artist." He received a $5,000 tuition stipend and will continue to work with Hasbro on "Play-Doh" products and digital extensions.

In addition, Obama and first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, Romney and his running mate, Paul Ryan, have all been immortalized in "Cabbage Patch" form -- all for charity.

Starting October 30, the "Presidential Kids" will be up for bid through eBay. The auction will close on Election Day. Proceeds will benefit Rock the Vote -- a non-partisan, non-profit organization.

Election-inspired "Cabbage Patch Kids" have been issued every election year since 2004, each time benefiting a different charity. The doll that fetched the highest bid ever was 2008's Sarah Palin, which netted $19,000 for Toys for Tots.

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And finally, it's been 20 years and five campaigns for "Barbie," who has been the B Party candidate

since 1992. "Barbie's" candidacy was even endorsed by The White House Project, which focuses on mentoring women age 21-35 and helping them hone the skills necessary for innovative and effective leadership.

It's not unusual for youth-oriented brands to tap into their red and blue side and bring presidential campaigns to a child's level. It is often a fun way to get parents to talk to their kids about the election, who they're going to vote for, and why.

On November 6, we'll find out who sinks whose "Battleship."

The undecided: What will sway them

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