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The benefits were not the fallout from novelty or scandal coverage alone. In an accompanying Pew survey, seven-out-of-10 Americans said it was “important” to learn the details about Mrs. Palin’s background, while 52 percent said she was “qualified to serve as president if necessary.”

Mr. McCain now has, on average, a five percentage point advantage over his opponent in several national favorability surveys, including the venerable Gallup poll.

“McCain has a larger advantage over Obama on leadership than on any of the other eight character dimensions tested,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, referencing a survey of 1,022 adults conducted Sept. 5-7.

“He also leads Obama in terms of being honest and trustworthy, putting the country’s interests ahead of his own political interests, being able to manage the government effectively, and being able to work with both parties to get things done in Washington,” Mr. Jones noted.

Mrs. Palin has not had much time at bat, compared with Mr. Obama and her direct rival, Mr. Biden.

Her total time in the glaring national spotlight is 12 days. Mr. Obama’s name has been bandied about ever since he made a high-profile keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. He announced his intention to run for president 19 months ago.

As for Mr. Biden, he has represented the state of Delaware since 1972 and has run for president himself - twice.

Instant fame has yielded coverage of Mrs. Palin that many consider biased. A Rasmussen Reports analysis released Wednesday found that 69 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement “reporters try to help the candidate they want to win.”

Half of the 1,000 likely voters in the Sept. 8 survey said the press is trying to help Mr. Obama, and 11 percent said reporters favored Mr. McCain. Just over a quarter judged the coverage “unbiased.”

And while “Lipstick Gate” and “Swiftboat Lipstick” have come and gone, the media frenzy over Mr. Obama’s “lipstick on a pig” comment has bigger connotations, according to NBC News’ Washington bureau chief, Mark Whitaker.

“This seems like a frivolous story, but I think it does tell us … things that I think are important to watch. One is how good the McCain campaign is at hand-to-hand combat, at basically driving the news cycle day after day,” he said Thursday.