- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 23, 2008

DENVER | Gov. Sarah Palin‘s maverick image as a moose-hunting “hockey mom” took more hits this week with disclosures about her campaign-bought Neiman Marcus wardrobe and her charging the state for some of her children’s travel expenses in 2006.

The Republican National Committee reported spending about $150,000 on clothes, hair-styling and makeup for the vice-presidential candidate after she joined the ticket in September.

The campaign expenses include $75,062 spent at high-end department store Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis and $41,850 in St. Louis in early September. The committee also reported spending $4,100 for makeup and hair consulting. The expenses were first reported by Politico.com.

“This is just one more piece of evidence against her, kind of like, what’s next?” Seattle pollster Stuart Elway said.

But John Andrews, a senior fellow at the Claremont Institute, called the disclosures “nit-picking.”

“When someone is brought up from the minor leagues to pitch in the World Series,” Mr. Andrews said, “that overnight star doesn’t have to buy her own uniform.”

Nick Shapiro, spokesman for the presidential campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, said that neither the campaign nor the Democratic National Committee pay for the wardrobes of Michelle or Barack Obama.

The report surfaced the same day the Associated Press found that Mrs. Palin billed the state of Alaska for airfare and hotel rooms for her children when they traveled with her to official events. She has charged the state $21,012 for commercial flights for her three daughters since taking office in December 2006.

Mrs. Palin said the children were invited to the events as part of the state’s first family and in some cases carried out an official role.

“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 McCain spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt, who has been traveling with Mrs. Palin. “It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign.”

Those who want to blame the Alaska governor for the Republican presidential ticket’s problem at the polls are off-base, say politicos.

“It would be totally wrong to blame McCain’s troubles on Palin,” said Charles Franklin, a professor at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and polling analyst.

Mrs. Palin has endured a steady stream of criticism and bad publicity since Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain plucked her from near-obscurity to be his running mate. Her triumphant speech at the Republican National Convention was followed by a pair of unflattering television interviews, questions about her qualifications, and an investigation into her involvement in the firing of a state trooper.

The Alaska governor has seen her favorability ratings dip from the mid-50s to the mid-40s, and even high 30s, since peaking in early September after the Republican National Convention.

But Mrs. Palin remains enormously popular with the Republican voter base, Denver pollster Floyd Ciruli said, noting that she drew almost 20,000 people to a rally in Grand Junction, Colo., last weekend. They’re unlikely to pay much heed to the wardrobe-and-travel reports.

“Her supporters believe this is an East Coast media cabal trying to damage her,” Mr. Ciruli said.

John Freemuth, political science professor at Boise State University in Idaho, agreed that the stories were unlikely to resonate with Palin partisans.

“I hate to say it, but I think people are used to that kind of stuff from politicians,” said Mr. Freemuth. “I don’t think it’s going to make that much difference. In Idaho, there’s more of a ‘you go, girl’ attitude toward her.”

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