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McCain's $5,000 Makeup: Will There Be Backlash?

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So, John McCain has reportedly paid more than $5,500 to Tifanie White, the makeup artist who works on "American Idol," for similar cosmetic services. It is yet another incident of a politician -- regardless of ideological stripe -- coughing up a lot of money for the sake of good looks.

Earlier this cycle, one may recall, former Sen. John Edwards was subjected to days of ridicule over the fact that he had made two separate payments of $400 for two haircuts. Leading the charge was the media -- keen on pointing out that a self-professed man of the people was spending the equivalent of a months rent, in some places, on personal grooming. The Associated Press ran a story that began: "Looking pretty is costing John Edwards' presidential campaign a lot of pennies."

But several high-ranking and prominent conservatives were also leveling the mockery. Rush Limbaugh asked whether the North Carolinian would be our nation's "first female President."

Mike Huckabee quipped that Democrats had the propensity to spend "more than John Edwards in a beauty shop."

The Republican National Committee put together a document calling Edwards a "pricey haircut enthusiast" and declaring that "the former North Carolina senator's populist drive has hit a series of troubling land mines" because of his two expenditures.

And Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-CO) went to New Hampshire and, in a dig at Edwards, got a $400 haircut of his own. The normal price was $17; the difference between the amounts was given to charity.

So now that McCain has spent 13 times as much on makeup as Edwards did on haircuts, will we be hearing from these folks again? Undoubtedly, no.

Republican officials have been caught ponying up big bucks for superficial items before -- Mitt Romney spent $300 on makeup during the primary -- and little has been made of it. And while McCain has taken lumps for the number of houses he owns (or for forgetting how many houses he owns), the fact remains that the media sees more contradiction when it is a populist politician making these types of payments. Pollster Mark Mellman's declaration in the wake of the Edwards haircut flap seems still valid today:

"Voters vote mainly on who the person is. He's trying to communicate a message about who he is, a person who does not forget where he comes from... The haircut issue is significant in that context; it cuts against the story."