I find Palin to be a shallow pick, but a wise one politically. One reason is that she has been getting a lot of heat as of late. This is good for the Republicans because they work best when they have an "enemy". My mother and I laughed out loud during the convention tribute to Ronald Reagan included the line, "The media hated him [Reagan]." Sure they did...
The Republicans' rhetoric is all about being the underdogs, under represented, and oppressed. They've used this more times than Obama has voted "Present" (which is to say, a lot*). The problem is that it only takes a second to think over the past eight years -- who has been in control of the Executive Branch? the Judicial Branch? and the Legislative Branch (I'm going to say they have controlled it for the past eight years because sure as hell the Dems haven't for the past two!)? The Republicans have run the whole show, yet to listen to them you'd think that Democrats have an iron fisted rule over the country and were going door-to-door with mandatory abortions, forced conversion to atheism, and sodomy on tap. Sara Palin's "noble" "struggle" "against" the horrid "liberal media bias" helps to keep that rhetoric that the Republicans need, and are oh so good at, alive.
So I pretty much hate Palin's politics. But she was an unbelievably clever pick politically. She frees McCain from being a foaming at the mouth conservative and presumably allows him to go reach out to moderates and Dems (because Palin has mouth-foam in abundance - just watch her VP acceptance speech). She is also being talked about and there really is something to be said about the whole, all press is good press.
I also have to smack the Democrats on the wrist here for playing political tee-ball. There has always been rumors that McCain would pick a woman as VP, early talk was Condi Rice (when there was still some evidence she had a fully functioning central nervous system) or Lizzy Dole. The fact that McCain picked a woman is not THAT big of a surprise (now WHO he picked -- sure). At the Democratic Convention Obama gave one of the most elegant, exciting, and well crafted speeches of our times. It was truly an amazing speech filled with vision, policy (yes Obama actually got a little wonky), and hope for a better tomorrow. It was a masterful piece of oration. And it got completely and utterly bulldozed by the Palin story. She stole the show, she destroyed Obama, and if McCain wins -- she stole the election. McCain's base has been hugely energized (finally), the media is all over her, and nobody -- NOBODY -- talks about what might be one of the best technical speeches certainly of my lifetime. Worse still Palin has silenced any talk of the policies contained within Obama's speech. The Dems should have seen this coming. It really was, obvious. This is yet another reason why Obama should have tagged Hillary as VP. It is that simple. She was the obvious choice for so many reasons. It was, in every respect, the "Dream Ticket" and would have guaranteed unity. They are much closer in views than Obama is to Biden. And, most of all, had Obama picked a woman you better believe there would have been very little wind left for the McCain sails.
The other point I'd like to make on the woman thing is this, I do not believe women will vote for Palin simply because she is a woman. If they are swayed because of that they are extremely casual voters (the kind that cannot be relayed upon to turn out). BUT the Republicans have become increasingly good at attacking the Democrats where they eat. Woman and minorities are major bases of the Dems. The Bush administration put an unprecedented number of people of color into high positions of state. Is that enough to alone make African-American's vote Republican? No. But it plants seeds of discontent. It allows the Republicans to very succinctly start wedges by merely asking, "Sure you vote Democratic historically, but what has the party done for you LATELY?" And for far too many groups (and because it is the impotent Democratic party) and answer has been/is inevitably, "Not much." The Republicans are aiming to either disenfranchise the Dems base or poach it outright. That takes time, but you already see how it worked when primarily black baptists turned against the Dems over gay rights (as Jesse Jackson asked, since when did gay marriage become a 'African-American issue'? The answer is since the Republicans made it into a wedge issue).
Now let's play a game. Let's say you are an Obama apologist blasting McCain for picking a political choice over a principled one, what in the hell do you call Joe Boring, err, Biden? How can the Change ticket pick a man that has voted for the status-quo since 1973? Biden is right down the center on pretty much everything. He voted for the Iraq war (a reason often cited by Obama as a reason to vote against Clinton in the Primaries). I kind of like Biden as a person, but as a politician he wants change about as much as McCain. Anyone criticizing Palin for being the politically clever pick needs to take a long hard look at Biden's voting record and ask themselves is that the Change that they believe in? Because if it is, you don't want Change, you want Change™. And, increasingly, I fear that is all both parties are offering.
* as a state legislator about 129 times thanks to The Google out of an estimated 4,000 votes, essentially every 31 votes or so he decided he didn't need to weigh in on. Not to mention his abysmal rate of only showing up to vote in the Senate about 20% of the time these days.