Faint praise for celebrity candidate

For Sarah Palin, election night gave a sobering lesson in just how quickly fortunes can change in the mercurial world of presidential politics.

Just hours after declaring herself "optimistic and confident" of being vice-president for the next four years, she found herself standing next to John McCain, being metaphorically patted on the back, as the Arizona senator conceded defeat.

"I'm of course very thankful to Governor Sarah Palin," he said. "She's one of the best campaigners I've ever seen and an impressive new voice in our party for reform."

Mrs Palin now returns to the bosom of her family knowing that she has enjoyed one of the most meteoric rises in modern political history. Her celebrity stock is sky high. A recent commentary in the Hollywood Reporter suggested that – should she so desire – Palin could command a multimillion-dollar salary in TV. However, her standing in party circles is mixed. To some, she's the plucky hockey mom whose no-nonsense ethic struck a chord with heartland voters. To others, Palin's apparent lack of intellectual curiosity, together with her God-and-guns right-wingery, scared independent voters away from the McCain ticket.

Tension certainly dogged her relationship with the candidate in recent weeks. Given the otherwise Churchillian nature of his speech, Mr McCain's farewell comments felt suspiciously like faint praise.