Republican presidential candidate Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., speaks during a Republican presidential debate Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011, in Las Vegas. (Chris Carlson/Associated Press)

“At last night’s GOP debate it was Bachmann’s fake nails that stole the show,” declared Huffington Post editor Ellie Krupnick. “The Republican candidate’s hard, glossy, squared-off acrylic nails are a prominent feature of her look, visible from a great distance and audible [sic] clacking against the podium.”

Though The Washington Post columnist Ruth Marcus wrote that Bachmann’s attractiveness contributes to her success, she conceded that “mentioning appearance is the third rail of gender politics.” “Word to the wise: focus on her politics, not her makeup or her clothes, her false eyelashes or her shoes,” wrote On Faith contributor Marie Griffith. The candidate’s fingernails have proved irresistible bait for style bloggers, perhaps because her chosen classic French manicure, depending on your source, is either timeless or tacky.

“A rounder nail is more elegant,” celebrity manicurist Kimmie Kyees said in the LA Times. “But then there are some people who love a super square shape with pointy edges.” Kyees cited Kim Kardashian as one of the celebrities who sports square nails.

But “Squared-off at the tip, her high-gloss french manicure never varies at all, and acrylic extensions help her to achieve lengths that are visible even from the nosebleed section,” wrote the Huffington Post’s Christina Wilkie and Lauren Rothman. “We’ve even heard them clickety-clacking against her debate podiums a few times, which means the rest of America heard it, too — even if they were unaware of where the noise was coming from.”

Unsurprisingly, there has been no discussion of the length, color or cleanliness of Bachmann’s opponents’ fingernails. It’s the same song but a different verse in the conversation America had four years ago about the fairness of writing about female candidates’ appearance. In 2008, when asked about her critique of Sarah Palin, fashion critic Robin Givhan responded, “I think the accusation of sexism has been thrown around a lot during the campaign...especially when the subject of women and their clothes comes up. But I think it’s far more sexist to keep a candidate in hiding until reporters learn how to treat her with ‘deference.’ Let the lady fend for herself.”

Boston Herald columnist Michael Smerconish has another solution: Host an old-fashioned radio debate. “Instead of debating under klieg lights, how about having the candidates in the same soundproof room, with extended time for responses to questions from individuals well-versed in the issues? It would be healthy to watch the debate without having to think about Michele Bachmann’s acrylic French manicure or how Perry’s shoulders fill his suit or who’s wearing what color tie.”

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