“A star is born. She stuck the knife in with a big smile, a kind of ‘Make my day’ look,” said Michael Barone, conservative columnist and editor of “The Almanac of American Politics”.
“Forty-four years ago, an actor named Ronald Reagan gave a speech supporting Barry Goldwater and launching his own political career that was known ever after, by his ever increasing group of followers, simply as ‘The Speech’, wrote Richard Starr in the conservative Weekly Standard.
“If the McCain-Palin team pulls off an upset in two months, the performance we just saw by Governor Sarah Palin will be talked about in the same hushed and reverential tones.”
After Mrs Palin, 44 and Alaska governor for just 20 months, accepted the vice-presidential nomination in St Paul with a tub-thumping speech, conservative commentator Larry Kudlow asked whether “we’re not witnessing the Western frontier version of Margaret Thatcher”.
He added: “She connected really well with middle-class working folks, both in cultural and social terms, which is no small feat: values matter and the Democrats are in trouble here – big-time. The more they go after Palin culturally, as they have already, the more trouble they’ll fall into.”
One blogger described her as “Margaret Thatcher with five kids and a Klondike drawl” while Jonah Goldberg of the conservative “National Review” enthused: “She was put on this earth to do two things: kill caribou and kick butt. She’s all out of caribou.”
Fred Thompson, the Hollywood actor and former Tennessee senator, had already told delegates: “She is the only nominee in the history of either party who knows how to properly field dress a moose … with the possible exception of Teddy Roosevelt.”
Mrs Palin electrified the Republican convention, declaring herself an “average hockey mom” and launching a blistering attack on Barack Obama, the Democratic nominee and his “clouds of rhetoric”.
After three days of scorn from Democrats and relentless media scrutiny, Mrs Palin came out punching, mocking Mr Obama as someone who makes “dramatic speeches before devoted followers” and has “authored two memoirs but not a single major law or reform – not even in the state senate”.
Throwing down the gauntlet to the press, she said: “I’m not a member of the permanent political establishment. And I’ve learned quickly, these past few days, that if you’re not a member in good standing of the Washington elite, then some in the media consider a candidate unqualified for that reason alone.
“But here’s a little news flash for all those reporters and commentators: I’m not going to Washington to seek their good opinion; I’m going to Washington to serve the people of this country.”
Mrs Palin emphasised her humble origins and time as a mayor of the small town of Wasilla (population: 9,780) for six years, departing from her text to slip in a joke about the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull. Answer: lipstick.
Afterwards, McCain advisers were jubilant. “She really showed them what she’s made of,” said one. “She was pure dynamite and she’s really going to shake things up. She’s changed the dynamic in this election.”
Around the hall, Republican delegates who had been lukewarm about Mr McCain – never regarded as a strong conservative – were rapturous.
“If you didn’t love her, you have a problem,” said Phyllis Gorman, 59, of Edmond, Oklahoma. “She deals with ordinary problems in her family every day. She understands us so much more than a bunch of old politicians. She’s funny, smart, tough and she’s a real American.”
Pam Pollard, 48, of Oklahoma City, said: “Only a momma could have given that speech. People talk about Hillary Clinton but Sarah Palin will be the first woman who really breaks that glass ceiling. You can feel the difference between Sarah and Hillary – Sarah is warm and genuine.”
In the Republican convention audience in St Paul were her husband and five children, including her son Trig, four months, who has Down syndrome, and daughter Bristol, 17, who is five months pregnant and gripped the hand of her fiancé Levi Johnston, 18.
After the 37-minute speech, Mr McCain made a surprise appearance and asked to cheers: “Don’t you think we made the right choice?” He added, looking at the seven Palins and Mr Johnston standing beside him: “What a beautiful family.”