While everyone else whacks Sarah Palin, I'll write a Devil's Advocate brief for the woman.
The Republican brand is in terrible shape, and a few years in the minority will do them a world of good. America loves an underdog, the Republicans really need a few years in the wilderness to retool and reinvent themselves.
Obama will be forced into many politically unpalatable decisions. Consider Bush the Wiser, who broke his promises on No New Taxes. Why did he break that promise? He viewed the Presidency through the eyes of responsible stewardship, a very East Coast noblesse oblige viewpoint, for he was fundamentally a good man. Obama broke his promise on public campaign finances: he has already shown himself capable of breaking promises on an as-needed basis
Sarah Palin is not such an evil person. Let's not slang her unduly. She's a fresh face, little different than Barack Obama when he gave his marvelous keynote speech in 2004. She represents a viewpoint I find unattractive, but many people feel as she does about these issues.
Considering Point 1, how will the Republicans best face their years in the wilderness? Sarah Palin is preferable to Mittens Romney or the Usual Suspects, anyone can see that, even this grizzled old Liberal. In time, Palin will assume the patina of celebrity, as Obama grew into the mantle of his fame. People never forgot Obama's speech in 2004, and he went to the Senate on the strength of it. It is good to be defeated early, at least once: Abraham Lincoln was trounced a few times, but emerged as a dark horse candidate for the Republicans.
Napoleon Bonaparte said greatness is the combination of circumstances and the man. Sarah Palin may be unknown at present and McCain may very well lose. Do not dismiss this woman, we shall hear more from her in due time. In the spirit of fall-two-times rise-three-times, Barack Obama leveraged his defeat at the hands of Bobby Rush to a much greater gain: had Obama won, he would merely be a minor league Representative from an overwhelmingly black district in Illinois, and there he would be today. Why did Barack Obama choose Chicago? Raised in Hawaii and overseas, he had no connections to the city. Obama came to Chicago and especially the Hyde Park area because it was the ideal springboard for a black, liberal politician. Obama had bigger dreams than his opponents. He put himself in the path of destiny.
Sarah Palin emerges from Alaska, the last frontier: she did not need to move somewhere to be cast in the mold of older paradigms. She represents the oldest and most powerful of all American political models, the small-town politician from the frontier. America loves the improbable and was raised with the legend of the American West. It is the legend which brought Reagan to power. Do not underestimate her appeal to a certain sector of the American body politic: she might raise the hackles of Liberals, but that is no bad thing: a politician is better defined by his collection of determined enemies than vacillating allies of convenience.
Yasser Arafat, that murderous old rogue and bank robber once said something wise: you may choose your friends, but your enemies choose you. McCain may have driven off a few people by his choice of Veep, but he has also solidified his support and opposition. If McCain loses, this choice will redefine him, for heretofore, his enemies have scoffed at his flip-flopping on this issue and that. Hereafter, his many Conservative naysayers will be forced to factor Sarah Palin into their calculus. If only to silence his Conservative critics, McCain has chosen shrewdly. If McCain goes down to defeat, he will have left a new avatar of Conservatism behind: a fierce, pretty little gun-totin' mama from Alaska. Those who shoot at Sarah Palin must be prepared to face the consequences of knocking her down hard, for America especially older Conservative Americans will not take kindly to Sarah Palin being dragged over the coals by Joe Biden.
Sarah Palin cannot be easily attacked, and is less vulnerable than might initially appear. The shibboleth of Inexperience hasn't worked attacking Barack Obama, it will not work with Palin. Were I advising anyone mounting an attack on her, I would lure her out into the open with her policies on abortion and set a woman to that task. American women are bitterly divided on the issue and vary widely on their moral positions on abortion. Only a woman can effectively attack a woman. Obama, usually an audacious man, played his Veep choice cautiously:
Democrats may be united behind Obama but less so behind Biden. Biden will be completely unable to engage Palin where she is weakest and will be obliged to play to her strengths. He cannot attack her as an outsider, for he's a career politician. He cannot attack her on the basis of foreign policy, where she has no experience at all, for she can play rope-a-dope, letting Biden attack her all the live-long day, every caustic word he utters is a net loss for the Democrats. He cannot condescend to her, for Veep is generally speaking a nothing job: any Veep mandate is doled out by the President himself. Even with abortion and gun control, the attack cannot be pressed. She must be ambushed, drawn into a kill zone to commit unforced errors, and Biden's just enough of a lawyer to do it. Palin will be even weaker on the attack: there is the minefield upon which Palin will come to grief.
Is Palin shrewd enough to find her way through that minefield? I do not know, but she is better served to play defense, not offense. Will the Democrats be prudent and cynical enough to let her go on the attack? That is the real question. Obama has proven capable of running a tight campaign. McCain has offered a strong gambit: will the Democrats be stupid enough to take it? Conversely, will Palin herself be stupid enough to go on the attack? If the Republicans have any sense, they will leave that pretty little pawn right where it is, at the crossroads of the chessboard.