A new Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll says that 50 percent of Americans believe John McCain's choice of Sarah Palin was the most effective pick in the campaign; 40 percent say Barack Obama's selection of Joe Biden was the smarter choice. That confirms the prevailing wisdom that Palin is dramatically helping McCain's chances of becoming president.
Going forward, Palin must consolidate her initial gains, and it will not be easy. First of all, the tabloid press is all over Alaska looking for dirt on Palin, and you can bet they'll come up with something. No human being is perfect.
And then there's the mainstream media, which took a beating last week after trying to marginalize Palin as some kind of country bumpkin, a religious fanatic not fit to serve. The personal attacks against Palin and her family angered millions of Americans and, almost instantly, made the governor a folk hero in some circles.
Of course, that infuriated the establishment press, which doesn't like getting pounded in the court of public opinion. So you can take it to the bank that many left-leaning media members are lying in wait.
But Palin has some skills that can protect her against the inevitable attacks. She is a natural performer - the TV camera loves the woman. She is also a plainspoken American who connects emotionally with the folks. Therefore, she can set her own agenda. As Ronald Reagan once did, she can go directly to the people and around the press.
If I were advising Palin, I would have had her defend Obama in the lipstick/pig incident. If Palin would have stated that she doesn't believe the senator would compare her to a pig, it would have been a compassionate gesture. Folks love compassion. Giving Obama the benefit of the doubt in the pig deal would have meant more votes in the barnyard, and also would have made it harder for the Obama campaign to lash her in the future.
In addition, I would tell Sarah to be Sarah: feisty, down to earth and funny. Don't try to be Henry Kissinger. Just demonstrate a grasp of the issues and a determination to look out for the folks. The key phrase for Palin should be: "Here's what we want to do." Then, using simple terms, state that.
Right now, American voters want to be reassured that their jobs are safe and that some crazy terrorist won't blow up their neighborhood. Palin has successfully dealt with economic issues in Alaska. On national security she has no record. But I'm sure there are things she wants to do in order to keep her five children safe. Just state them.
The elite media have little in common with everyday Americans, and Palin should laugh off their attempts to demean her. She can best capitalize on her incredibly fast start by simply keeping it simple. Nice goes a long way in life. And in politics.
Veteran TV news anchor and author Bill O'Reilly is a host on Fox News. His "Radio Factor" can be heard from 1 to 3 p.m. weekdays on NewsTalk 1300 WIMO-AM.