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Red (or blue) political fashion statements

When David Colangelo spotted the yellow LiveStrong band dangling from John Kerry's wrist, he didn't think cancer or Lance Armstrong.

He saw a business opportunity.

Five weeks later, Colangelo and his two associates at Momentum Sales and Marketing in Safety Harbor are rolling out their own version of the silicon bracelets just in time for the final stretch of the presidential race.

Intended to raise political awareness, as well as some quick cash, Momentum's wristbands come in blue for Bush-Cheney; red for Kerry-Edwards.

Jim Wetzel, Momentum's president, is aware that this color scheme is the opposite of that traditionally used by the major TV networks to indicate which party wins a state, but he doesn't care.

"This is not about the states, it's about the individual's vote," he said.

Momentum even offers instructions for people willing to wear their politics just below their sleeves. "Right hand only," is embossed inside the Republican band; "Left hand only" inside the Democratic version.

Since Momentum routinely does contract manufacturing overseas, the men knew how to get boxloads of wristbands molded and shipped by FedEx air within weeks. (Both parties will take the hit on offshoring with this product, which has "Made in China" stamped on the inside.)

Momentum's initial shipment of 1,000 blue bands arrived in time to be handed out for free at the Republican National Convention in New York last month. A second shipment arrived Tuesday with both blue and red versions. Momentum's general manager, Ken Judd, was hoping to pass out a few at John Edwards' appearance in Tampa Tuesday night.

The bands will be available only through the company's Web site (www.momentumsm.com) at $20 for a minimum order of 10. The men said they're willing to donate $1 a band to a nonpartisan charity that benefits U.S. soldiers, but they have not yet selected a group.

About 400 Bush wristbands already have been sold, based on buzz created at the convention. Among the orders: 260 for the College Republicans at the University of Florida. Hunter Williams, chairman of the UF club, said the wristbands' similarity to Armstrong's yellow bands is a plus.

"When people see a blue one, it piques their interest," said Williams, who said his group regularly attracts about 150 people to weekly meetings. "It's another level of visibility we can add for our campaign."

Colangelo, who until recently considered himself apolitical, says neither political party will receive a donation from his sales. But he pitches his election-year gimmick as more than just a way to make a fast buck. He thinks lots of Americans are like him: jolted out of their political complacency by the 2000 election.

"I'm 42 and I've never voted in my life," Colangelo said. "But the race was so tight in 2000, I've registered, and I'll be voting for the first time. Every vote does count."

While he declines to say what color wristband he'll be wearing, Colangelo gives a hint of how he thinks the election will play out through his ordering decisions.

"We're hedging our bets," he said. "But we have more Bush."

Kris Hundley can be reached at hundleysptimes.com or (727) 892-2996.

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