The Note: Pit Bull's Bite

A lucky 13 days out, we're wondering:

Do the votes in real America count differently than those in fake America?

Where do real Americans shop?

Is it better for Team McCain to waste time and money on Pennsylvania, or to waste whatever enthusiasm would vanish if the GOP wasn't playing offense anywhere?

Will bashing the media win John McCain a single, real-life vote he wouldn't have already gotten?

Is it patriotic to question your opponents' patriotism?

Does McCain have one long ball left in him? (One that has nothing whatsoever to do with "Joe the Plumber"?)

Does a long plane trip to Hawaii by Barack Obama freeze the race in place, or allow someone to drive a new message?

Does the fact that Sarah Palin is now the most accessible of the four candidates change anything at all?

It might, actually, but Palin has gone full circle in her brief time on the national landscape -- and the recent attempts at definition have gone about as well as that bridge we used to hear so much about.

She continues to get huge crowds, though the big headlines she's getting are not for the right reasons. She influencing voters -- but not in the way McCain expected when he shook up the race by plucking her from obscurity. (Ask Colin Powell.)

Neither running mate has done his or her ticket many favors in recent days. And Palin -- buttoned up for so long, might have been better off staying that way (albeit with nicer buttons these days).

Not where she needs to be going: "Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin apologized yesterday for implying that some parts of the country are more American than others, even as similar comments by two Republican congressmen were causing a backlash that threatened their chances for reelection," per The Washington Post's Lyndsey Layton.

"If that's the way it's come across, I apologize," Palin said on CNN.

We're waiting for this to show up her stump speech -- what's more patriotic than shopping at high-end retail outlets?

"The Republican National Committee has spent more than $150,000 to clothe and accessorize vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin and her family since her surprise pick by John McCain in late August," Politico's Jeanne Cummings reports. "According to financial disclosure records, the accessorizing began in early September and included bills from Saks Fifth Avenue in St. Louis and New York for a combined $49,425.74. The records also document a couple of big-time shopping trips to Neiman Marcus in Minneapolis, including one $75,062.63 spree in early September."

(Cash crunch? What cash crunch? That's some nice lipstick. . . . )

Strategic decisions! "The campaign does not comment on strategic decisions regarding how financial resources available to the campaign are spent," spokeswoman Maria Comella said.

Added another spokeswoman, Tracey Schmitt: "With all of the important issues facing the country right now, it's remarkable that we're spending time talking about pantsuits and blouses. It was always the intent that the clothing go to a charitable purpose after the campaign."

Too easy: "I wonder how 'Joe the Plumber' feels about his donation going to Sarah the Shopper," one Democratic operative tells the New York Daily News' Ken Bazinet. "I guess she can also see Saks from her doorstep."

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