WASHINGTON (AFP) — 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 out Wednesday that puts McCain 10 points behind his Democratic rival Barack Obama, 55 percent of respondents and potential voters said they believed that Palin is not cut out to be vice president, and 47 percent viewed her negatively.
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 44-year-old Palin 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 150,000 dollars on clothes for Palin since she was picked by McCain at the end of August.
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."
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.
Palin, however, rolled with the punches and last Saturday confronted her imitator in a live broadcast, showcasing her self-deprecating humor.
But then on Monday, Palin 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," 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 tie-breaking vote as Senate president.
Despite her glaring drawbacks, McCain continues to present Palin at campaign rallies as a good potential vice president, stressing that he had no doubts she would be a valuable asset in his campaign goal of cleaning Washington of political corruption.
But even staunch Republicans remain unconvinced.
Ken Adelman, a Republican hawk who served in top diplomatic and defense posts for presidents Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, wrote in the New Yorker magazine that Palin's choice for vice president made him switch sides and he now supports Obama for president.
Former secretary of state Colin Powell, a Republican and military general who has also served as chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, on Sunday endorsed Obama and said of Palin: "I don't believe she is ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president."
And former president Bush's main speechwriter, Christopher Buckley, a prominent conservative, announced this month he was abandoning support for McCain for several reasons, the last of which "was the Palin nomination. What on earth can he have been thinking?"
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