TAMPA -- As Sarah Palin traveled the crucial I-4 beltway of Florida Sunday, drawing thousands of supporters dressed in red, white, blue -- and pink -- she talked up the campaign's tax plan and energy policy, told supporters that she was hoping to come from behind like the Tampa Bay Rays, and lashed out at criticism of her expensive wardrobe.
''This whole thing with the wardrobe -- I was going to just ignore it because it's so ridiculous,'' Palin said, referring to reports about the Republican National Committee spending $150,000 for her clothes, makeup and hair stylists. ``Those clothes aren't my property. . . . I'm not taking them with me.''
Palin, who was introduced by conservative talk show host Elizabeth Hasselbeck from ABC's The View drew sympathetic cheers from the crowd of supporters, who showed up in pink T-shirts reading ''Palin Power,'' ''Got Sarah?'' and ``Read My Lipstick.''
But in an election in which women leaders from both parties hoped to hail as a breakthrough year for women in politics, the wardrobe flap is another reminder that women are still treated differently than men on the campaign trail.
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In this year's presidential race, Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama have both targeted the women's vote. Over recent months, women have gradually shifted away from McCain to Obama.
According to a recent Gallup poll, women across the country favor Obama over McCain, 54 percent to 39 percent. A poll by the Pew Research Center released Oct. 21 found that 60 percent of women under age 50 have a negative view of Palin. And in Florida last week, Obama held an 11-point lead among women in a poll conducted for The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.
Those rifts weren't apparent among the adoring crowds that attended Palin's speeches in Tampa and Orlando on Sunday.
GRATEFUL FOR PALIN
Bradenton resident Holly Dillon arrived more than three hours early. As a military wife and mother of a special needs child, Dillon, 42, said she supported McCain long before he picked Palin and is grateful to have ''someone who understands the frustration'' of fighting for a special needs child.
''Everyone can relate to her,'' said Dillon, wearing a pink Palin baseball cap. "She's a down-to-earth person, she's approachable, she has a lot of issues in her own life that we can relate to, and I think that's refreshing.''
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