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Starting Gate: On The Wrong Side Of Big 'Mo

There are plenty of signs pointing toward a decisive victory for Barack Obama in less than two weeks. The campaign is now being played out almost exclusively in those traditional Republican states John McCain must win, Democrats hold a huge advantage in new voter registration, he's being outspent at a rate never before seen in presidential politics and the polls aren't tightening the way many expected, at least not yet.

In case the McCain campaign needed one more reminder of the position they're in, consider this: Barack Obama has raised over $600 million for his campaign and the Republican camp finds itself besieged with outrage this morning over a report that they've spent $150,000 on a makeover for Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and her family since she was selected for the ticket in September.

This is what being on the wrong side of political momentum looks like. The Politico breathlessly reported last night that the Republican National Committee spent $150,000 in shops like Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to "clothe and accessorize" Palin and her family for the campaign trail. Spending money on such personal items may run afoul of campaign laws although the McCain campaign says the clothes will be donated to charity after the election.

The story has predictably exploded across the Internet and cable television and political pundits are dutifully drawing the grand conclusions about it. On top of "shopping-gate," the AP is reporting that as governor, Palin charged the state about $21,000 for questionable travel expenses for her family on trips that appeared not to be state business.

These are the latest hits to the campaign focused on Palin, who has increasingly become a liability to McCain. Fifty-five percent of respondents in the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll now say Palin is not qualified to be president while 47 percent now view her negatively.

While Palin's clothes are getting airtime, much less attention has been paid to Obama's stunning fundraising performance throughout the campaign. In an analysis of his fundraising, the Washington Post notes that in spite of his campaign's emphasis on its Web-based small donors, most of Obama's money has come from larger donors. "Lost in the attention given to Obama's Internet surge is that only a quarter of the $600 million he has raised has come from donors who made contributions of $200 or less," the paper reports.

McCain has bitterly complained about Obama's reversal of his pledge not to opt out of the public financing system earlier this year. Last Sunday, he said Obama has opened up Watergate-like floodgates for corruption and scandal. "Senator Obama raised $150 million …during the month of September," he said on Fox News Sunday, "completely breaking whatever idea we had after Watergate to keep the costs and spending on campaigns under control. … And I can tell you this, that has unleashed now in presidential campaigns a new flood of spending that will then cause a scandal, and then we will fix it again."

But such complaints by the McCain campaign have been met with yawns, resurrecting memories of Bob Dole's "where's the outrage" battle cry at the end of the 1996 campaign. That's what happens when you're on the wrong side of the momentum in the closing days of an election.

Around The Track

  • Obama yesterday taped an appearance on Ellen DeGeneres Show that will air today. "Michelle may be a better dancer, but I am convinced I am a better dancer than John McCain," the candidate tells the host.
  • Black voters are turning out in record numbers for early voting, an analysis by the Wall Street Journal finds.
  • And the New York Times finds significantly higher turnout among Democrats in key states allowing early voting.
  • Palin made a pitch to women voters in Nevada yesterday, pledging to be an "advocate and a defender" for women worldwide, reports's Scott Conroy.