Palin becomes a burden for Republicans

Polls show voters are losing faith in the Republican candidate for vice president.

Sarah Palin addresses a campaign rally at the Green High School Memorial Stadium in Green, Ohio.
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The embarrassing price tag of her campaign wardrobe and her blooper about the job description of US vice president confirm what recent polls say: Sarah Palin is a burden to the Republican presidential ticket. Seven weeks after John McCain picked her as his running mate, getting a sharp boost to his White House effort, Americans are less and less convinced she is worthy to serve as the country's number two leader.

In a Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll yesterday Mr McCain was 10 points behind his Democratic rival, Barack Obama, 55 per cent of respondents and potential voters said they believed that Mrs Palin is not cut out to be vice president. Even more troubling, many Republican voters unhappy with the Alaska governor are seeing their misgivings confirmed, above all with the "troopergate" scandal, in which the governor is being investigated for alleged abuse of power in trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the Alaska state police force.

She faces a second probe this week over whether she violated ethics rules in the affair. A spokesman said Mrs Palin, 44, requested this subsequent inquiry, branding the first probe a "political witch-hunt". The Politico website caused a stir by publishing financial records of the Republican National Committee showing it has spent more than US$150,000 (Dh550,000) dollars on clothes for Mrs Palin since she was picked by Mr McCain at the end of August.

The McCain-Palin campaign spokeswoman Tracey Schmitt slammed the media for focusing on "pantsuits and blouses" at such a difficult time for the country, and said: "It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign." Mrs Palin's answers in debates and interviews and her quirky expressions and body language have been grist for humorists and imitators like comedian Tina Fey, who has turned her antics into a weekly happening on the "Saturday Night Live" comedy show watched by record audiences.

Mrs Palin, however, rolled with the punch and last Saturday confronted her imitator in a live broadcast, showcasing her self-deprecating humour. But then on Monday, she bared her lack of political knowledge when she was asked about the functions of a vice president during an interview with a Colorado television station. "A vice president has a really great job because not only are they there to support the president's agenda, they're there like the team member, the teammate to the president," Mrs Palin said.

"But also, they're in charge of the United States Senate, so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes," she added, in comments that contradicted the separation-of-powers principle enshrined in the US constitution. The US vice president cannot participate in congressional debates, but does have the right to cast the tiebreaking vote as Senate president.