early and often

The Final Undoing of Sarah Palin

She has, however, saved on stockings.

With each remaining day as precious to the McCain campaign as a newborn fawn, the recent distractions coming from Sarah Palin can’t be helpful. The maverick governor apologized yesterday for her remark about the “pro-America” parts of the country. Then she gave a dubious answer to a third-grader’s question about the role of the vice-president in the United States government. Meanwhile, an AP investigation found that she charged the Alaska government for her kids’ travel expenses, and a new NBC/WSJ poll shows that Palin’s qualifications are voters’ No. 1 concern about voting for McCain. And that was all before Politico revealed that the RNC has spent $150,000 on Palin’s wardrobe since late August, the kind of spending spree that doesn’t mesh with the candidate’s image as a regular hockey mom, nor the campaign’s appeals to middle-class Joe the Plumbers.

• Marc Ambinder says that “Democrats are going to have a lot more fun with this than is prudent, but the heat for this story will come from Republicans who cannot understand how their party would do something this stupid … during the collapse of the financial system and the probable beginning of a recession.” The wardrobe price tag is “without precedent,” and one can tell by the campaign’s “weakly defensive response” that they’re “deeply embarrassed.” [Atlantic]

• Steve Benen thinks the “political implications are more than a little humiliating” considering “all the McCain campaign messages a story like this steps on — ‘elitist,’ ‘small-town values,’ ‘big spender,’ ‘relating to “real” America,’ etc.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• Christopher Orr concurs that many “Joe the Plumbers, Tito the Builders, Phil the Bricklayers, etc. … may be less than thrilled to hear that the RNC has apparently spent $150,000 clothing and accessorizing La Palin.” Though on the bright side, “John McCain’s $520 Ferragamos now sound like the shoes of a pauper.” [Plank/New Republic]

• Matthew Yglesias says John Edwards’s $400 haircut, over which there was such a huge kerfuffle, looks “like a rounding error compared to Palin’s September hair and makeup expenses.” It’s also surprising that this type of expenditure is legal, though apparently it is. [Think Progress]

• Chuck Todd and friends believe the story “could further add to the perception that Palin isn’t a serious candidate.” And Andrea Mitchell wonders whether Palin is “permitted to accept these kinds of gifts under Alaska ethics laws.” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Jake Tapper wonders whether Palin realizes that even if she donates the clothes to charity, as her campaign claims, she still has to pay taxes on “those fancy new duds just as if someone had written her a check for $150,000.” [Political Punch/ABC News]

• Amanda Carpenter understands that “Palin needs to look good and probably didn’t have a closet full of prime time suits in stock before she got picked,” but thinks this is “extravagant.” She also wonders how much Hillary Clinton spent in comparison. [Town Hall]

• Ezra Klein writes that being a governor, Palin presumably had clothing that “was appropriate for giving political speeches and attending campaign meetings.” Even assuming she needed some new things, “$150,000 of other people’s money” is too much. [American Prospect]

• Michael Tomasky calls the expenditures “both ghastly and hilarious,” and says it’s “way beyond my comprehension” how a woman “running for public office and giving speeches about how she’s just a regular Joe/Joan who understands what regular families go through” can accept “$3,500 jackets.” The tangible effect is that this will “demoralize Republicans.” [Guardian UK]

• Sam Stein writes that the timing is awful: As the “Republican ticket is trying to highlight its connection to the working class,” it’s revealed that Palin “received more valuable clothes in one month than the average American household spends on clothes in 80 years.” [HuffPo]

• Alex Koppelman says “the optics of this aren’t great for the McCain campaign or for Palin, especially given the country’s economic woes and the work the campaign has done to portray Palin and her family as salt-of-the-earth middle-class types.” [War Room/Salon]

• Emily Bazelon contends that, “In a sense, this is unfair,” because any wealthy candidate would already have the nice clothes that Palin needed to buy. Plus, “Isn’t her image a legitimate campaign expense?” However, “the price tag is just much [too] high, too many teacher and nurse and firefighter salaries,” and it also “points out exactly how much Palin is trading on her sexuality, her winks, her look.” [XX Factor/Slate]

Related: Jennifer Senior and Dahlia Lithwick on Palin’s ‘SNL’ Appearance and McCain’s Problems With Women

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

The Final Undoing of Sarah Palin