An election for those who were missing Karl Rove...
Much as it pains me to admit it, I think this is probably right. Above all else, the line that was going to win the election for the Democrats was that John McCain was just going to double down on everything about George Bush that you already hated - Iraq, tax cuts for the obscenely wealthy, drilling for oil everywhere... you name it, it's part of McCain's policy programme. And even on the things where he used to be a "maverick" - torture, the environment - he seems to be coming round to the Bush way of thinking. Given that everyone in the US has had eight years to look at the results of those policies, and given that the overwhelming majority decided that they hated them, the last thing the McCain campaign wants to do is talk about policy.
So, they've decided to double down on the "culture wars" angle. They were already pushing the war hero thing as the answer to every conceivable question that anyone could field. Now, alongside a hyper-masculine McCain wrapping himself in the flag, they can work the "hockey mom" angle to death as well, they parade her crazy religious convictions, and generally mobilise the conservative base.
The irony is, of course, that this is itself a continuation of the Bush strategy of focusing on "moral issues" in elections - you mobilise an angry Christian base and hope that enough of them turn out on polling day to win you the election. OK, Sarah Palin may be better looking than Dick Cheney, but it looks to me like a government that offers the same basic package of subsidies for the oil industry and military contractors whilst uttering Christian pieties.
For what it's worth, I don't think this will work. As Roy Edroso points out in his review of Palin's speech:
But the crowing about the virtues of small government as demonstrated by the blessed lives of lucky white people goes back to Goldwater at least, and the flag-waving to the days before democracy was even a thought. The act went over gangbusters in the hall. How well it goes outside of it, and into November, will depend on how much Americans are willing to pay for this sort of entertainment.
It might all be fun and games to have this sort of pantomime when the times are good, but when the economy's crashing, you'd think the electorate would be responsive to some searching questions about what anyone plans to do about it.