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Heard on the Hill: Power to the Purple

Let’s call it purple power. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has a suit of armor, one that she dons both to catch the flash of cameras and to deflect partisan barbs: On high-profile occasions, like Sunday’s passage of historic health care legislation, the California Democrat often sports a lilac-colored suit.

We’ve seen Pelosi’s purple power on display for two recent State of the Union addresses (2008 and 2010). She wore a lilac pantsuit the night that Democrats celebrated their election victory (and majority shift) in 2006.

She sported the signature look in 2007 when French President Nicolas Sarkozy addressed a joint session of Congress and in 2009 at another joint session attended by then-Vice President Dick Cheney in which electoral votes were counted. And more recently, she wore it in April, when she joined first lady Michelle Obama for a ceremony honoring abolitionist Sojourner Truth.

There are variations on the suit: The pantsuit has a notched collar, while a skirt-and-jacket variation has a more rounded collar and trimmer fit. Pelosi usually matches them with a shell top and a pearl necklace.

A Pelosi spokesman informed us that “purple is the color of the suffragettes,” a hint that Pelosi takes her wardrobe choices and their symbolism seriously.

Washington image consultant Sharon Glickman says Pelosi’s sartorial choice is also savvy. Purple connotes royalty, she notes, but doesn’t scream “look at me” the way red might. “I think she’s smart to wear purple,” Glickman says, adding that the Speaker frequently wears Armani. “She has a strong personality ... and it softens her a little, but it’s still regal.”

And the color also hints at bipartisanship, even when Pelosi’s words don’t. As we can’t help but remember from elementary school art class, red (as in Republican) and blue (for Democrats) make ... purple.

A Packed Schedule. While Members of Congress spent the weekend locked in a marathon legislative session over health care reform, Rep. Jean Schmidt kicked things off by showing her endurance in another way.

Just hours before casting her vote on the historic health care bill, the Ohio Republican completed the National Marathon on Saturday morning, posting an impressive unofficial time of four hours and nine minutes. That was good enough for Schmidt to place fifth in the female 55 to 59 age division but slightly slower than the four-hour-and-six-minute time that she posted in the fall at the Marine Corps Marathon.

But Schmidt wasn’t trying to break records — rather, she used the race to help jump-start her training for marathon season, spokesman Bruce Pfaff tells HOH. “She didn’t do it as much for time as she did for miles,” he says.

The Congresswoman, who plans to run the upcoming Boston and Cincinnati Flying Pig marathons, already had a 20-mile run scheduled Saturday as part of her regular training, Pfaff says. And since a marathon that she was scheduled to run in South Carolina a few weeks back was canceled, she opted to enter the National Marathon.

Schmidt is no stranger to the 26.2-mile distance, as Saturday marked her 81st marathon, Pfaff says.

And while Schmidt spent her Saturday morning on the streets of Washington, she quickly headed back to Capitol Hill for the rest of the weekend. Pfaff says that after staffers picked the Congresswoman up at the finish line, she quickly changed clothes and ran into the House chamber to make a vote.

Political Theater. Saturday night saw political types from both ends of the spectrum out enjoying a show. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia took in the Washington National Opera’s premiere of “Porgy and Bess” at the Kennedy Center.

Our tipster says he entered through a side door and looked cheerful, smiling and shaking hands with fellow audience members.

Meanwhile, perennial presidential candidate and Green Party-er Ralph Nader dropped by the Landmark E Street Cinema for a screening of “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” — the film based on the best-selling Thomas Frank book. We hear Nader surprised fellow filmgoers by getting into a debate with the documentary’s director, Joe Winston, during a question-and-answer session.

Overheard on the Hill. “Last out of Capitol after midnight. Last protesters put up great cheer for me. I stood with for photos then learned they were for Obamacare.”

— Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) musing on Twitter about mingling with the enemy early Monday morning.

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