Palin criticizes Obama's tax policy in Tampa; defends wardrobe

TAMPA -- Standing before a sea of sign-waving supporters in red, white, blue -- and pink -- Republican vice presidential candidate and Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin fought back against the flap over her wardrobe, talked up the campaign's tax plan and energy policy and told thousands of supporters that she was counting on the home of the come-from-behind-Tampa Rays to put the Republican ticket over the top.

''Something tells me that you all know a little something about turning an underdog into a victor,'' Palin said, referring to the Tampa Bay Ray's improbable trip to the World Series, Palin said. ``We're counting on you to do things the right way and help us win for you on November 4.''

Thousands of supporters showing off t-shirts reading ''Palin Power,'' ''Got Sarah?'' and ''Read My Lipstick: McCain/Palin,'' greeted Palin, who was joined by Gov. Charlie Crist, her husband Todd, Elizabeth Hasselbeck, the conservative voice on ABC's women-centered talk show, The View, introduced Palin.

Both Haselbeck and Palin fired back at the coverage of Palin's $150,000 makeover by the Republican Party -- The McCain campaign has said the clothes will be donated to charity after the election.

''This whole thing with the wardrobe. I was going to just ignore it because it's so ridiculous,'' said Palin. ``Those clothes aren't my property, just like the stage and the lighting and the other things purchased by the RNC. I'm not taking them with me. I'm back to wearing my own clothes from my favorite consignment shop in Anchorage, Alaska.''

Along with taking shots at Obama's record -- including implicit mentions of and the alleged voter registration fraud by the group ACORN and Obama's association with William Ayers, of the terrorist group Weather Underground -- Palin also talked up the tax issue that's helped the McCain campaign gain some traction in recent weeks.

Invoking the example of ''Joe the Plumber,'' ''Justin the Student,'' and ''Jane the Teacher'' she attacked Senator Barack Obama's tax plan, and his spread the wealth remark to the now famous Ohio plumber Samuel Joe Wurzelbacher. ''Sen. Obama wants to spread the wealth, which means the government taking your hard earned money and doling it out,'' she said. ``Barack Obama calls that spreading the wealth and Joe Biden calls higher taxes patriotic, but Joe the Plumber said it sounded like socialism to him.''

Swaths of hot and pale pink mingled with the usual red, white and blue as hundreds of Palin supporters -- some not even old enough to vote -- donned their favorite campaign T-shirts to cheer for the Alaska governor and Republican vice-presidential candidate.

Palin stopped in Tampa as part of the campaign's ''Road to Victory'' rally, before traveling to Orlando for a second rally Sunday afternoon.

Dolly Patron's 'Travelin' Thru'' and Shania Twain's ''She's Not Just a Pretty Face'' flowed through the convention center loudspeakers, as thousands of supporter waved signs and showed off T-shirts reading ''Palin Power,'' ''Got Sarah?'' and ``Read My Lipstick: McCain/Palin.''

''She represents the kind of woman that I am, not ultra feminist, but feminine,'' said Jill Bowling, of Riverview. ``I feel like I can be feminine and strong at the same time.''

Bowling, 47, brought her 20-year-old daughter Amber to the event, arriving in matching pale pink ''McCain/Palin shirts,'' ''but I've had the glasses for five years,'' she said of her purple wire rims, with the rectangular lenses made famous by Palin.

Friends Gail Emmott, 56, and Liz Fitzgerald, 51, came from Sarasota to see Palin.

''I just feel that she's working for us,'' said Emmott, wearing a pink ''Palin Power'' T-shirt. ``I really believe she's a great leader and she speaks for the common person--She has taken on the big guys in her own state, she's taken on corruption, and she's won.''

''I brought these guys here because I wanted them to see a woman who has succeeded in a traditionally male-dominated field,'' said Kenney, 54, who explained to his daughters that Palin was the first female vice presidential candidate of a major party since Geraldine Ferraro ran with Democrat Walter Mondale in 1984 -- before either girl was born.

Alex, a freshman at the Academy of the Holy Names with Madison, said she was excited when sister told her they'd be seeing Palin.

''I like that she doesn't change her positions,'' Alex said of Palin. ``She's a strong woman.''

Palin campaign's Sunday in the hard-fought Tampa and Orlando areas. Polls show Democratic nominee Barack Obama running ahead of McCain in the state that will make or break his presidential bid. Florida voters should brace themselves for a frenetic homestretch. Hardly a day or two goes by without a visit from the Democratic or Republican tickets, and in their absence, surrogates blanket the state.

In what will be one of the most anticipated events of the campaign, Obama is expected to appear for the first time with former President Bill Clinton in Orlando on Wednesday. Obama's event with Hillary Clinton in Orlando last week drew an estimated 50,000 people.

Among female voters, McCain is trailing by 11 percentage points, according to a poll conducted last week for The Miami Herald, St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9.

This will be Palin's third trip to Florida since she was catapulted onto the national stage seven weeks ago. A bigger draw than the nominee, Palin attracts tens of thousands of people to her events. She's slated to appear at the Tampa Convention Center and the Silver Spurs Arena in Kissimmee.

McCain's wife, Cindy, will also be in Florida on Sunday, visiting a campaign office and knocking on doors in West Palm Beach.

Next up: Democratic vice presidential contender Joe Biden, who will arrive Monday for a three-day tour to promote early voting in New Port Richey, Ocala, Melbourne and West Palm Beach.

Anticipating long lines on Election Day, the Democratic ticket is trying to bank as many votes as possible during the early voting period. Republicans are dominating voter requests for mail-in absentee ballots.

Herald staff writer Beth Reinhard contributed to this report.