The Note: Palin Power

Congratulations, Sen. John McCain: The race is no longer solely about Sen. Barack Obama. (Which is not the same as saying it's about you.)

There, on the cover of Time, Newsweek, and People -- and US Weekly and the National Enquirer -- is the woman McCain vaulted from obscurity to celebrity without a pass through the stages of political curiosity (not that the press corps isn't curious).

Just about by herself -- with her record still a mystery, and almost without answering a single question -- Gov. Sarah Palin has deposited the ticket in the lead.

Already -- and most importantly -- she has shaken the stubborn narrative of the race. (Could it be that a country that wants a fresh approach was really waiting for a fresh face to promise it?)

"McCain leads Democrat Barack Obama by 50%-46% among registered voters, the Republican's biggest advantage since January and a turnaround from the USA TODAY poll taken just before the convention opened in St. Paul. Then, he lagged by 7 percentage points," per USA Today's Susan Page.

The lead stretches to 10 points among likely voters. And this is supposed to be Obama's trump card: "Before the convention, Republicans by 47%-39% were less enthusiastic than usual about voting," Page writes. "Now, they are more enthusiastic by 60%-24%, a sweeping change that narrows a key Democratic advantage. Democrats report being more enthusiastic by 67%-19%."

The Real Clear Politics polling average reads "McCain +1.0" -- anyone remember the last time those letters were red?

Team McCain starts the week trying to take Obama's "change." New ad out Monday morning (a fact-checker's delight): "The original mavericks. He fights pork barrel spending. She stopped the Bridge to Nowhere. He took on the drug industry. She took on big oil. He battled Republicans and reformed Washington. She battled Republicans and reformed Alaska. They'll make history.  They'll change Washington. McCain. Palin. Real change."

Palin, R-Alaska, has done many things for McCain in the 10 days since she announced her presence with a rifle shot across red-and-purple America: energize the base, prime the pump of GOP fundraising, inject youth into a tired party, challenge the mainstream media to understand precisely what her candidacy means.

What it means is something real: "Palin's debut has invigorated the Republican base here in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, a battleground area in a top swing state, and one where GOP turnout depends heavily on evangelical Christians such as the Goodes, along with the many military families clustered around the Norfolk and Portsmouth bases," Alec MacGillis writes in The Washington Post.

"The reaction has been remarkably instantaneous, with socially conservative voters who had barely heard of Palin electrified by the few facts they quickly learned. . . . But the question facing Republicans here is whether their organization can match, and fully capitalize on, the enthusiasm provided by Palin with just two months left until Election Day."

We still can't be sure which way and how deeply Palin cuts, not yet. (And as Oprah declines the honor -- Palin will sit down for a full-length interview with an actual reporter before the week is out: ABC's Charlie Gibson grabs the scoop the McCain campaign said it would not dole out until Palin was good and ready.)

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