Here’s why I think Palin works (unless she commits a blunder): I subscribe to the simple theory that outsider candidates--the candidates who run against Washington--do better than insiders. This is one exogenous reason why governors (Carter, Reagan, Clinton, Bush) do better than senators, the ultimate insiders.
This election was a bit odd: both candidates, as senators, bear the Scarlet "I" of Washington insiders, but both have a plausible claim to outsider status--McCain because of his maverick and reformist ways, and Obama because of his fresh face and newness in town. But his outsider cred is a bit suspect, and his pick of Biden smacks of the old politics. Palin reinforces McCain’s outsider cred in a way that Kay Bailey What’s Her Name wouldn’t have.
Add this, by the way, from Camille Paglia, as quoted in the London Times: “We may be seeing the first woman president. As a Democrat, I am reeling,” said Camille Paglia, the cultural critic. “That was the best political speech I have ever seen delivered by an American woman politician. Palin is as tough as nails.”