Given Barack Obama's strong, comfortable, steady performance in tonight's debate on John McCain's turf of foreign policy, I would say that the Republican attempts for the last four weeks to raise expectations on Sarah Palin by comparing her to Barack Obama may have been a deadly mistake. Expectations for Obama's ability to keep up with McCain may have been in fact lowered in the minds of listeners because people were expecting a Palin-like performance ("Palin-like meaning" either aw-shucks-common in the beginning or frighteningly lost in her late media interviews).
Why would the audience expect that performance? Because Republicans have been so effective at tying the Palin to Obama together. The problem is, of course, that Obama looked presidential in grasp of foreign policy and diplomatic in forcefully telling McCain where he was wrong (on Iraq, WMD, and Afghanistan) and graciously conceding where McCain was right. The contrast between Palin and Obama couldn't have been more stark. And tactical decision to tie the two together now looks like a waste of campaign time, because in going toe-to-toe with McCain on every issue without stumbling, Obama proved that she is in fact not ready for prime time.
Some might say that the stock market crash took Palin out as an effective McCain move. I would say that it was Barack Obama who took that arrow out of the tiny McCain arsenal. After tonight nobody on the right who wants to be taken seriously is going to be able to claim that Palin is more prepared to become president than Barack Obama is. She is no longer a factor in the presidential equation, unless her bumbling policy responses continue to be a drag on John McCain. Then comes the backlash against her 15 minutes of fame.