Palin Steps Up and Stuns

As for him he alternately smirked and grimaced. In general, he seemed peeved and annoyed. As his voice rose and the minutiae spewed forth he seemed to forget that he was in a debate in front of real people rather than Senate colleagues. He did have a real and compelling moment: when he choked up in recollecting the fear of worrying that his son might not survive the car accident which claimed his wife's life.

As Brit Hume said, there certainly were no "deer in the headlights" moments for Palin. From Morton Kondracke: "I think she was feisty, informal, she referred a lot to her own life ... she was forceful and she was knowledgeable. She did not make a single mistake." As Bill Kristol noted, conservatives were "extremely happy" and she "utterly held her own." Alex Castellanos on CNN said, "Overall this was a rough week ... but tonight you saw Main Street and not Wall Street."

Frank Luntz's focus group overwhelmingly voted for Palin. The comments would warm the hearts of the McCain camp: "She spoke to the American people." "She was Mainstreet America." "I was expecting her to lose it," confided one who then went on to praise her to the hilt. Luntz predicted a shift in the polling data. That remains to be seen.

Rick Klein from ABC's The Note seemed to hit the nail on the head: "Nearly halfway in -- where has this Sarah Palin been? She's articulate, quick, detail-oriented tonight. Sometimes less is more." Even liberal analysts like Marc Ambinder seemed impressed. He blogged, "Palin is adept at keeping Biden on the offensive. ... She answers (or doesn't answer) the question asked of her in a sentence and then shifts to a talking point against Obama."

So those planning the McCain campaign funeral will have to put their plans on hold. For a campaign badly in need of a jump start they got one. In a big way. The MSM couldn't have played their part better -- beating her down, lowering expectations, and then seeing each of the tags (e.g., unsophisticated, ill-informed, clueless) upended one by one. Time will tell whether it was enough to change the race, but it was a step in the right direction for a ticket badly lacking in momentum.