Sarah Palin obviously exceeded trainwreck expectations last night and reassured panicky supporters. The McCain campaign has every reason to be relieved, and perhaps even pleased.
But the fact that Palin dodged a potential bullet doesn't mean they're going to want to put her up in front of any more firing squads. In particular, the campaign will likely keep her away from any interviews that allow followup questions, which were lethal to her in the Couric sitdowns and the absence of which last night enabled her to skate past questions where she clearly had no real answer. Which essentially means that the campaign is going to keep her away from any serious interviews at all.
Sure, she'll have more base-stoking talks with partisan sycophants such as Hugh Hewitt, and she'll continue to do big rallies and raise money. But don't anticipate an appearance on "Meet the Press"--or, for that matter, "The View"--any time soon.
As a result, I suspect from here on out Sarah Palin is going to recede considerably as a campaign issue, and while that's good for McCain in the narrow sense, I'm not sure it is more broadly. Since Palin arrived on the scene, the campaign's fortunes have mirrored hers almost exactly: It peaked shortly after her convention speech had pundits everywhere declaring her a superstar, sagged gradually for a while after that, and crashed right around the time the Couric interviews became America's favorite daily comic entertainment. She was not the sole, or even the primary, reason for all these up and downs, but she clearly played a role.
Sarah Palin is political nitroglycerin, and as she recedes a bit from the political discussion, so too may some of the volatility that's characterized the race. And while that volatility may have increased the odds of McCain losing in a landslide, it was also arguably his best bet to eke out a victory.