The Associated Press reported some Twitter comments wondered if the pin might be adorned with a GOP symbol elephant or be some sort of tribute to the four Americans killed in an attack of the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Comedy Central noted Romney’s oversize pin dwarfed the flag pin on President Obama’s lapel. Size also mattered for Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, who tweeted while watching the first presidential debate, “Romney's American flag lapel pin bigger than Obama's.”
The pin’s explanation is more straightforward, yet not lacking a twist or two. A gift to the GOP candidate from the Secret Service, it is a version customized for the agency (though not used for security purposes). The black “dot” superimposed on the flag’s stripes is in reality the Security Service’s logo, a chunky-looking five-sided star. The customized pin, a collectible, can found at the Secret Service’s store in the District of Columbia.
Trackers of presidential lapel fashions may recall Richard Nixon was the first White House resident who regularly wore a flag lapel pin. According to his biographer Stephen Ambrose, Nixon got the idea from his chief of staff. The former adman, Bob Haldeman, who was the inspiration of The Candidate. While the stars-and-stripes as a lapel ornament started as a Republican fashion, it won bipartisan support as a display of unity and patriotism after the September 11, 2001 attacks.
Romney also wore the Secret Service flag pin during this year’s Republican primary debates, while Newt Gingrich wore a pin depicting the flag under which George Washington fought during the Revolutionary War. Like his running mate, GOP vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan sometimes also wears a variant version of the flag lapel pin, while the running mates at the top of this year’s Democratic ticket wear the classic version.
Time magazine reported in 2008 that presidential candidate Barack Obama had resumed wearing a flag pin at all public appearances, after drawing questions from the press when he omitted it.
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