I was at that same pro-life event Mike mentioned earlier. I should thank Laura Ingraham, who spoke a little before Gary Bauer, for really distilling the case for Palin for me. It basically comes down to the intersection of two grievances: The attack on Palin because she's a woman, and the attack on Palin because she's a social conservative and ordinary American (which social conservatives see as synonymous). As Ingraham put it: "All these journalists are ... all for equal rights for women... for women succeeding in a men's profession. Oh really? Then why are you treating this woman like dirt? They're doing it for one issue: If Sarah Palin were pro-choice ... It would have been, 'Oh, McCain is a maverick once again.' But, of course, Sarah Palin is a huge threat."
The crowd absolutely lapped this up.
As for GOP elites, I detect more than a little anxiety. Some of it comes from the conservative journalists I've talked to over the past few days. Some of it comes from lobbyist types. For example, I overheard a conversation between two of the latter last night in which one described Palin as "better suited for the cast of 'Northern Exposure' than the presidency." (I guess comments like that sort of prove Ingraham's point, except the media's not the culprit.)
My gut feeling: No question you want your base energized heading into an election, particularly if you're John McCain and you've had problems exciting it. And no question Palin has accomplished that. On the other hand, maybe you don't want your base too excited. Or at least not too visible, too late in the game. If the average swing voter caught a whiff of the triumphalism and resentment wafting through that event just now, they might be a little spooked. (Surely the same would be true of an event where Obama's base channeled its id. That's why you only want them so visible...)
One more reason you'd like to have consolidated your base long before your national convention.