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Published: Thursday, 10/23/2008

Palin greeted by 'Let them eat cake' protest and questions about new wardrobe

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TROY, Ohio - Ignoring scrutiny of her costly wardrobe paid for with party funds, hockey mom Sarah Palin wowed a crowd of strong supporters here in the local hockey arena Thursday.

The Republican vice-presidential running mate made no reference to the controversy over the $150,000 spent to purchase her and her family a new wardrobe after she became the party's nominee.

Several of Mrs. Palin's supporters, who filled the 6,000-space arena, said they were not bothered by the report that the Republican National Committee outfitted her from swanky shops like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

"I don't think that it should be an issue. I don't see anyone asking about Obama's clothes or how much he spends on his wife," said Michelle Robertson, 37, of Celina. "They want people who represent the country to look good. To be a leader you gotta look good. Dress for success."

Henk Brunsveld, 49, a retired Marine Corps sergeant major, said "Sarah Palin's from Alaska, it's not warm up there. It's not Texas. She probably was in need of a wardrobe." He noted approvingly that the stores patronized for Mrs. Palin's clothing appeared to be American businesses.

John Schweser, Troy city councilman, said Mrs. Palin has a smaller income than any of the other three in the presidential campaign. He said the issue is "superficial."

"The issue is the economy," Mr. Schweser said. "For us to be talking about what people are wearing, it says a lot about our culture."

Outside the arena, a handful of Obama supporters carried signs making fun of the wardrobe ruckus.

Shelby Scott, 17, a high school student in Troy, carried a sign listing some expensive items and ending with the punch line, "The look on your face when you lose the election - priceless."

"I think it's unnecessary," Miss Scott said of the buying spree. She said the high-priced adornments conceal a lack of substance. "When she opens her mouth not the brightest things come out of it and I think the media's trying to hide that."

She didn't have a problem with Mr. Obama's $1,500 suit. "At least he has something to say," Miss Scott said.

Her brother's sign said, "$150,000 makeover - let them eat cake."

"I can go to Kohls and find a nice wardrobe for 150 bucks," said Julian Scott, 22.

The rally in Hobart Arena in downtown Troy was Governor Palin's fourth in deep Ohio Republican territory in two days as she and GOP presidential nominee Sen. John McCain turn to the party's base in the waning days of the campaign to try to hold the crucially important state of Ohio.

Polls show the state moving dramatically in the direction of Sen. Barack Obama, the Democratic presidential nominee. Quinnipiac University's latest poll of battleground states released Thursday showed Mr. Obama leading Mr.

McCain in Ohio 52-38.

On Wednesday, Mrs. Palin spoke in Findlay, suburban Akron, and Cincinnati, where she was joined by Senator McCain. Mr. McCain was in Florida yesterday running a grueling campaign schedule and Mrs. Palin was to continue Thursday night in Pennsylvania.

In her speech, Mrs. Palin continued to play up Joe the Plumber - Lucas County's Samuel Wurzelbacher - whose question to Senator Obama made him a kind of folk hero, at least for the McCain-Palin campaign.

She said Mr. Wurzelbacher got Mr. Obama to admit that he wants to "spread the wealth."

She hailed Mr. McCain as the candidate in the race who can be counted on in a crisis and to end wasteful spending. She repeated her personal commitment to be a champion of special needs children, and reminded the crowd that she and Mr. McCain are the anti-abortion ticket in the race.

"John and I have a vision of America where every innocent life counts," she said.

She said the McCain-Palin ticket will drill offshore for oil, and will "mine, baby, mine," a reference to expanding "clean coal technology," to wean America from dependence on foreign energy sources.

Republican U.S. Rep. John Boehner rallied the crowd saying, "If you're tired of people running around saying they want change when what they really mean is they want to raise your taxes, we need to elect John McCain and Sarah Palin."

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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