The Note: Enter John

ST. PAUL, Minn. --

Sen. John McCain has gotten the scrambled race he wanted when he turned to Gov. Sarah Palin. So this is his party now -- what does he do with it?

John McCain's convention gets to be about John McCain again (or maybe for the first time), as one of the strangest political gatherings in memory comes to a close Thursday in St. Paul with Cindy and John as your highlights.

McCain's teammate in this endeavor capped a weeklong journey from obscurity -- across Quayle Quarry and Eagleton Pass and back (no wonder Trig's hair was out of place) -- with a powerful speech that keeps her in the image game.

To wear out some imagery, the hockey mom knows how to lace up the skates -- and can deliver a check into the boards, lipstick intact.

The speech wasn't soaring or specific, but it didn't have to be. It wasn't perfect or polished, but neither is she (and that's the point).

We stayed earthbound with Sarah Palin. Yet a beleaguered party has found its inspiration -- a person who makes Republicans proud to call themselves Republicans again, even if she's someone that the "elite media" (more unpopular at the RNC than Harry Reid?) doesn't quite know what to do with. (That applies maybe even to those who have yet to learn the perils of the hot mic.)

"Ms. Palin's appearance electrified a convention that has been consumed by questions of whether she was up to the job, as she launched slashing attacks on Mr. Obama's claims of experience," Elisabeth Bumiller and Michael Cooper write in The New York Times.

"Palin pitched herself as the product of small-town America and laced her address with sarcastic digs at Sen. Obama. She said it is his experience, not hers, that is lacking, and she embraced the role of leading the attack against the Democratic ticket," Michael D. Shear writes in The Washington Post. "Palin focused on almost every tactical misstep Obama's campaign has made, painting a caricature of the Democrat as an out-of-touch elitist and a lightweight celebrity with no sense of what matters to average Americans."

Even Sen. Joe Biden was impressed -- well, sort of.

"She had a great night. I thought she had a very skillfully written, and very skillfully delivered speech," Biden, D-Del., told ABC's Robin Roberts on "Good Morning America" Thursday. "I was impressed by the speech, but I was also impressed by what I didn't hear spoken. . . . They were good, funny lines -- I'm glad they weren't about me."

Biden doesn't like the "sexist" press treatment: "The truth is, some of the stuff that the press has said about Sarah and that others have said about the governor, I think, are outrageous."

(As for whether Palin's attacks on Obama mean Biden will go after McCain: "I'm not going to change my tone, because the way I feel about John McCain is the way I feel about him.")

This, McCain could live with: "Palin's speech may overshadow even Mr. McCain's performance, with Republicans saying it was the most important event of the four-day convention a chance, for better or worse, to set the conventional wisdom on her for the rest of the campaign," Stephen Dinan writes in the Washington Times.

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