The McCain campaign and RNC's pushback to revelations that they purchased $150,000 worth of clothing and accessories for Sarah Palin has been, primarily, that it was money well spent.
After all, the Alaska Governor's image has graced countless newspaper covers and been featured prominently on television newscasts. Politics, the argument goes, is a superficial business. "She needed clothes," said McCain.
But what has some GOP operatives shaking their heads is the missed opportunities that that $150K represents. Had the RNC forgone the clothing purchases, they could have put more mail in mailboxes, more boots on the ground, and more advertisements on air.
Indeed, a look at some ad buy statistics provided by a Democratic source shows that the RNC put more money down on Palin's attire than they and the McCain campaign have spent on a weeks-worth of advertising in half a dozen, potentially, swing states.
From October 13th through October 19th, the McCain campaign and the RNC spent a combined $125,000 on advertisements in New Hampshire, roughly $90,000 in West Virginia, and $86,000 in Maine. In each of those states, the Republican ticket is fighting Obama for a small but potentially significant number of electoral votes.
In North Dakota and Georgia, the RNC and the McCain campaign did not spend a penny on advertising during that same week. These two states seem likely to break for McCain, but it is not inevitable: Obama could potentially pick off their votes.
In Indiana, the RNC spent $450,000 last week on ads while the McCain campaign did not spend anything. An additional $150,000 could have meant 33% more airtime over the course of a week.
Then there is Michigan. The GOP pulled out of the state a few weeks ago and so hasn't spent any cash on advertisements there. The $150,000 they put down on Palin's clothes would not have purchased much airtime in that large market, but it may have saved McCain from the public criticism that he was subjected to for abandoning the state.
In the end, Palin's sharp looks could draw more voters to the Republican ticket than any particular ad. But the budget choices of the RNC have some observers baffled, and they will likely be a sharp point of critique for campaign post mortems.