McCain’s Croc-Up

At a town hall meeting today in Denver, Colo., McCain highlighted the American footwear company Crocs—you know, the colorful rubber shoes with holes in them—as an example of how free trade benefits American business.

“This former small business now employs 600 people in Colorado alone, and sells over 50 percent of its products in 90 countries around the world,” McCain said. “Building barriers to Crocs or any American company’s access to foreign markets will have a devastating effect on our economy and jobs, and the prosperity of American families.”

It might have been a good local example of an entrepreneurial start-up prospering in the global economy—if the company hadn’t blown up in the last several months.

Have a look at Croc’s stock price . (Symbol: CROX.) It peaked at $75 back in late October, but since then has plummeted to one-tenth of that. It last traded at $6.91. Whereas footwear like Uggs managed to outlive its initial hype and become a footwear mainstay, Crocs appear to be what its investors most feared: a fad.

Not only that, but Crocs has been pushing for higher trade barriers, not lower ones. In March 2006, Crocs filed a complaint seeking to block imports of copycat shoes made in Canada and China, claiming they violated a patent for “breathable footwear pieces.” (They won .) Compare that with McCain’s assertion in his speech that “protectionism not only puts a hidden tax on almost everything you buy, but it undermines American competitiveness and costs jobs. … Our future prosperity depends on opening more of these markets, not closing them.” (Video available here .)