Voters are about to get another option besides the polls for registering the popularity of the presidential candidates, and this one serves alcohol.
The historic Hay-Adams Hotel across Lafayette Square from the White House is now featuring the 2016 contenders on its extremely popular political cartoon drink coasters.
In December, a new set landed featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa. A few weeks ago, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, Donald Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan arrived. And as soon as this week, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina will make her debut, as will an updated caricature of Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas.
The hotel doesn't alert patrons of its famous Off the Record bar in advance of who will be in the next batch. But one of the artists, Kevin Kallaugher of the Economist and the Baltimore Sun, shared two of his new sketches with the Washington Examiner.
"It's exciting," Kallaugher said of the new focus on presidential contenders. He said with the fast-moving campaign and candidates dropping out even before Iowa voters were the first to head to the polls last month, it's a bit of a race against time to get each of the players drawn and delivered on the cardboard squares to the bar before they're no longer in the contest.
"It's a pecking order and then you work your way down," he said, explaining that the cartoonists started with candidates they think will go the distance. Customers who want to obtain a copy of their preferred candidate "better be quick" because the hotel won't order reprints once the bar runs out if the depicted politician has dropped out of the race.
The pop art discs first launched in March 2014 and starred then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., then-Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., President Clinton and Hillary Clinton together, Presidents George W. Bush and Obama together, then-House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Cruz. They flew off the bar, food and beverage manager Julien Surget said.
"We just wanted to do something unique that fits the theme of the bar," he said. The coasters, which portray all the subjects as patrons of Off the Record, "remind people that at the end of the day, they're regular people" who might come down to the pub and have a cocktail after a long day, Surget said.
"People love them," including the caricatured politicians, he said.
Boehner was featured holding a glass of his trademark Merlot while legendary bartender John Boswell mixed a cocktail behind him. Boehner came in to see his likeness and asked Boswell, who has since retired, to autograph their coaster, Surget said. Boswell asked Boehner to do the same.
McConnell's office called to request a copy, Surget said.
Kallaugher said he was tracking Ryan's career for a while but his turn on the presidential ticket in 2012 predated the project. When he became speaker late last year, Kallaugher said he finally had an excuse to add the Janesville, Wis., Republican to the mix.
A spokesman for Ryan said the speaker enjoyed the cartoon, which shows him holding a burger made of a block of cheese with a "Mr. Speaker" bullhorn next to him and Kallaugher and the project's other original cartoonist, Politico's Matt Wuerker, sharing a drink and having a chat in the background.
"Yes, he has seen the coaster. And he got a kick out of it," said Ryan spokesman Doug Andres.
The next batch will feature the first by a new cartoonist. The Washington Post's Ann Telnaes contributed to the upcoming set, although Surget wouldn't reveal whom she drew.
The focus is now on the presidential primary and the bar will keep a tally of who finishes, first, second, etc., based on which candidate's coaster runs out first, Surget said.
In the first batch, the bar couldn't keep the Clintons coaster or Bush-Obama one in stock, Surget said.
The Clinton coaster depicts Hillary Clinton departing the Hay-Adams with President Clinton hot on her heels, his arms full of suitcases. The Bush-Obama one shows Bush pouring Obama a glass of red wine as Obama flashes a giant smile.
"Nobody has a complete set," Surget said of the cartoons, which will number 23 after the printer delivers the latest batch. "I'm the only one with a whole set. I keep them under lock and key," he added.
Surget has ordered reprints but there are a few that are permanently out of stock, he said.
Kallaugher said that the Library of Congress has approached him for a set to add to its collection. Fans have also asked if they can buy sets.
Surget said he has no plans to sell them.
"Just come in and have a drink," he advised would-be collectors.