Obviously, my half tongue-in-cheek prediction that Fred Thompson would the GOP VP nominee was not true, but Palin is a great pick.

She shores up McCain’s reformer image, having taken on corrupt Republican Party, challenging an incumbent Republican Governor and completely cleaning his clock in the primary election.

Second, she helps bring in any women who are still upset about the treatment Hillary Clinton received in the primary. (Her paying tribute to HIllary during her speech this afternoon was no accident, I’m sure.)

Third, she’s a babe and I’m sure there will some men who vote on the basis of who would they rather see for the next 4-8+ years: her or Biden. She clearly wins that decision hands-down. (And, yes, I once did vote my vote on this important issue.)

Fourth, she’s a solid conservative and should shore up McCain’s weakness in that area.

Fifth, she adds some excitement to the campaign. I’ve pumped about McCain for the first time. Talking to some non-political friends of mine, they’re more interested in McCain than ever before.

I do have to compliment McCain and his campaign on how well they handled this. A buddy of mine said he heard on the news that people were blind-sided by this pick, never expecting it to be her and having barely heard her mentioned. His immediate thought was “Paul Smith and I talked about her two months ago; it wasn’t that big a secret.” (I had argued for her to be the pick back then, saying it made the most sense give all the variables in play.) My response to that was “Yeah, I’m not that much smarter than everybody else.” I had been concerned about her ability to handle herself, but her speech today calmed those fears a bit.

I’m further impressed by the McCain campaign’s performance over the last few weeks: in the month of August, when people are on vacation or otherwise occupied, he closed a gap in the polls, drawing even (and ahead according to some polls) until Obama’s post-convention bounce, which McCain can recover from next week. Even the timing of this announcement will help minimize the bounce as the topic of conversation is now Palin and not Obama’s speech last night. (I got my hair cut over lunch and Palin was the topic of conversation in the barbershop, even with an apparent majority of Democrats in the place.)

They even seem to playing with the Obama campaign, drawing them into unforced errors. The quick line of attack from the Obama campaign was to attack her “lack of experience.” I bet the McCain campaign is sitting back laughing, saying, “Please let this election be about experience.” She’s at least as experienced as the Democratic Presidential candidate, so I don’t think that’s a fight the Obama campaign should pick, but I bet they will anyway.

It’s been a masterful few weeks by the McCain campaign. Let’s hope they keep it up.