When Politico revealed the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 outfitting Sarah Palin and her family after she was picked as John McCain's running mate, one would assume it would be worthy of a brief, snarky story buried on the New York Times's "Caucus" page, filled mostly with anonymous Republicans griping about campaign spending priorities.
But Patrick Healy and Michael Luo's "$150,000 Wardrobe for Palin May Alter Tailor-Made Image" made the front page Thursday morning. (The other major papers had more self-control.) The Times played up what they saw as the hypocritical disconnect between Palin's "Joe-six-pack" appeal and the posh wardrobe from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.
Yet Republicans expressed consternation publicly and privately that the shopping sprees on her behalf, which were first reported by Politico, would compromise Ms. Palin's standing as Senator McCain's chief emissary to working-class voters whose salvos at the so-called cultural elite often delight audiences at Republican rallies.
The hard-news Times even compiled an online slide show featuring Palin in various outfits, with photos accompanied by catty commentary like this:
But looking at the before-and-after photos, it was not readily apparent what Ms. Palin got from her shopping spree at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue....What the number $150,000 suggests is that Ms. Palin traded up to designer versions of the clothes she wore before stepping onto the national stage, a surprising implication for a candidate who emphasizes her appeal to working-class voters.
Columnist Mona Charen made the point at National Review Online that the Democrats aren't exactly dressing down:
Barack Obama's suits go for $1500 and that Michele wears designer duds all the time (except when appearing on The View when she boasted of wearing an under $200 dress).
Also at NRO, Lisa Schiffren explains why this was money well spent for the GOP. Women's fashion is a bit out of Times Watch's area of expertise, but it sounds good.