For those who follow politics closely, it feels like much more than a eight days have passed since Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin stepped onto the national stage Aug. 29 as Sen. John McCain's running mate.

After several days of negative media attention, the storm dissipated Wednesday when she gave a smart and well-delivered speech that electrified the party faithful at the Republican National Convention, dispelling some doubts about her addition to the ticket.

The long-term effects of her entry into the race remain unclear. Will the shine of her speech fade as voters learn more about her history in Alaska, from Troopergate to tax hikes? Will McCain's fourth-quarter substitution of family values for national security boost or destroy his chance for an upset?

Local Republican Greg Conlon, who is running for a House seat against Jackie Speier, was inside St. Paul, Minn.'s Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday when Wasilla Mooseburger breathed life into what had been a low-wattage convention. It was "spontaneous combustion when Palin hit the floor," Conlon recalled Friday.

"I just thought that she's everything that we could possibly want in a vice president," said Conlon. "She's got so much energy and excitement that she's going to motivate the troops at all levels."

As for Palin's utter lack of foreign policy experience, Conlin said that, if anything were to happen to McCain, who is 72, Palin will be surrounded by experienced advisors.

Unfortunately, McCain's advisers are even more hawkish and trigger-happy than the current president's, so the Insider doesn't consider that a comforting prospect.

Conlon said McCain's speech Thursday was moving. Did the McCain campaign lay it on a bit thick with the multiple recountings of the senator's prisoner-of-war experience? Conlon doesn't think so, because it served to illustrate his propensity to "put country first."

"He's demonstrated many times that he's his own man," Conlon said, "and he came across (Thursday) as his own man and willing to do what he thinks is right for the country at all costs to himself."

For a different take, we went to Rep. Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, who in last week's Insider greeted the Palin announcement with bafflement and disdain.

Though it's clear now that Palin's political skills should not be underestimated, Eshoo appears confident that a McCain-Palin ticket will not be able to woo enough independent voters to win in November.

"She was chosen to nail down the right-wing base of the Republican Party, which John McCain was absolutely desperate for, and that he has done," Eshoo said Friday.

"Another goal was to change the narrative in the campaign," Eshoo continued, "from talking about the war and the economy to abortion and the cultural issues of the base of the Republican Party."

Eshoo noted that McCain's speech lacked policy specifics. He didn't lay out a plan for Iraq, even though the war had been, until recently, the central focus of his campaign. She said it's not an acceptance speech that will be "quoted by historians."

"He just said, 'Here I am, a war hero, and I served my country well,'" Eshoo said.

The race will come down to slogans versus substance, Eshoo said, and Democrats will be wise to focus heavily on the issues, particularly the economy, since McCain and Palin seem to have ceded that territory.