Did Palin really need $150k for a new wardrobe?

Jake Turcotte

No one is saying that Sarah Palin should be required to walk around in flip flops and a hefty bag as she campaigns over the next two weeks.

But the $150,000 price tag on to get her dudded-up for the campaign trail has left many a political observer agog at the news.

It's those guys again

The same folks that brought you the "McCain - Just how many houses do I own anyway?" mini-series back in August are at it again. Politico broke the news of the fashion spending spree yesterday.

What tipped them off?

"Politico asked the McCain campaign for comment, explicitly noting the $150,000 in expenses for department store shopping and makeup consultation that were incurred immediately after Palin’s announcement. Pre-September reports do not include similar costs," writes reporter Jeanne Cummings.

The money trail

According to Politico, the Republican National Committee shelled out $150,000 for clothes and accessories for Palin and some of her family.

Neiman-Marcus hit the jackpot with over $75,000 being spent there while nearly $50,000 was dropped at Saks Fifth Avenue.

The Associated Press reports that "the RNC also spent $4,902 at Atelier, a stylish men's clothing store in New York. Other purchases included a $92 romper and matching hat with ears for Palin's baby, Trig, at Pacifier, a baby store in Minneapolis."

No clothes in Alaska?

This could cause people to wonder why this was necessary. After all, clothes are a necessity in Alaska. It's cold there.

Booth Moore, LA Times fashion critic, explains that being in Palin's shoes (no pun intended) isn't easy.

"In Palin’s defense, being a woman in the public eye has its own kind of pressures," Moore writes. "And it’s unlikely she has been stepping off the campaign trail to join the ladies who lunch for shopping sprees at Neimans. Instead, she is probably working with a wardrobe stylist, who brings her things to try on and choose from. But the issue of clothing and hair expenses has always been a land mine for politicians (John Edwards' $400 haircuts), and someone should have been sensitive to that."

"You also have to wonder how it feels, as a woman, to have everyone know that you really have been dressed up and trotted out like a beauty queen for the American public to wag their tongues at. Caribou Barbie indeed," he adds.


Are people upset? Sure the blogosphere is abuzz over it. Some are fire-spittin' mad.  Others are dismissing the whole thing, saying it's much ado about nothing.

But you have to wonder if some of those who donated to the RNC might really be bothered.  After all, when donating did you expect to be outfitting Todd or did you expect that you'd be helping some Republican in a tight district race?

In a period where the GOP faithful are rallying around Joe the Plumber and talking about the little guy needing tax breaks, $150k on new clothes isn't exactly the message the campaign wants to get out in the next 12 days.

Nothing to see here...

The campaign just wants to move on.

"With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses," said spokesperson Tracey Schmitt. "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

And this could be just a flash in the pan. Like anything else in a campaign, it all depends on how long something remains in the news cycle. McCain's housing gaffe lasted forever. That was much earlier in the general election when the airwaves and blogosphere were not nearly so noisy.

You gotta look good

While some political observers may be up arms over the whole thing, let's be realistic. When running for office, it does help to look professional. But is $150,000 needed to look good? Frank James over at the Chicago Tribune's Swamp found a scholar in fashion law who says this makes sense.

"In our image-based society, the packaging of a candidate requires strategic spending on visuals, from stage makeup to backdrops to podiums at a flattering height -- and yes, costumes," says Susan Scafidi. "As a result, it's difficult to argue that the RNC's purchase of clothing for Sarah Palin is an inappropriate expenditure on items for personal use, especially if they really do go to charity after the campaign. Still, given that neither party has given its male candidates a wardrobe makeover, the $150,000 spent at Saks and Neimans reinforces the unfortunate impression that Governor Palin is merely the conservatives' favorite dress-up doll."

Does the story have legs?

Our guess is that this controversy won't last long. We're in the waning days of the campaign and now it is all about the horserace.

Multiple polls come out daily. Just today, an Associated Press poll called the race even, Fox News is reporting Obama's got a nine-point lead, while Reuters is touting a 10-point lead for Obama. And those are national polls. The most important barometer are the polls in Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Hamphsire, North Carolina, and other key battlegrounds. There the numbers are all over the map.

And let's be fair and find out about Joe Biden. Is he wearing the same old sports coat or has the DNC helped him slipped into something a little more vice-presidential?

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