Spinning Palin the clothes horse

Republican John McCain’s campaign defended vice presidential running mate Sarah Palin on Friday over a flap involving $150,000 in clothes purchased by the Republican Party for her and her family’s use.

The wardrobe controversy, first reported by political news website Politico, has been used by some critics to try to undercut Palin’s image as a down-to-earth working mother who touts her small town values.

The clothes were purchased for Palin and her family for use if needed during the Republican nominating convention in September.

Palin herself began the defense Thursday, telling the Chicago Tribune: "Oh, if people only knew how frugal we are."

"It’s kind of painful to be criticized for something when all the facts are not out there and are not reported," Palin told the newspaper.

The McCain campaign, after first deciding not to engage in a public discourse about the clothes, decided to provide more details about them — along with some scathing criticism of the news media.

"Governor Palin did not ask for or want any new clothes," said McCain senior adviser Nicolle Wallace.

"About a third of them have been returned, a third of them sit in the belly of the plane and are available to her and her family for special campaign events, TV appearances and ad filming," Wallace said. "Another third was made available to her family for the public events during convention week."

Palin told the Chicago Tribune that the clothes will either be given back, auctioned off or sent to charity.

The Alaska governor has energized the Republican base but some conservative commentators have questioned McCain’s judgment for putting the little-known Alaska governor on the White House ticket.

Palin is still drawing large crowds and bringing conservative voters who were wary of McCain back to the Republican fold.

Wallace said the media storm about Palin’s wardrobe was a terrible disservice to her and said there seemed to be a "double-standard for women in politics."

"That any aspect of her shoes, clothes or appearance has become a distraction is a terrible commentary on the state of the media and politics. Let’s get on with our great debate about the best direction for the country in these challenging times for our economy and our nation’s security," she said.