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Second, Mrs. Palin bringing to the ticket the passion for traditional family values and down-home religion, along with commitment to market economics and limited government, not seen among the Republican presidential hopefuls throughout the primaries this year.

How this happened may have something to do with that fact that political parties sometimes face what Mr. Matthews calls “redefining moments, where party leaders and members engage in some real soul-searching trying to figure out who they are and what they stand for.”

On script and on message, Mr. McCain closed the convention Thursday by capping that redefinition of the Republican Party, saying what he has said before and what never gets old for the ears of Republican stalwarts: There is no substitute for victory, no acceptability for defeat - in Iraq or anywhere else.

Mrs. Palin had said the same thing on the wars on terrorism and in Iraq, and added her unique commitment to values on Wednesday.

All this was reinforced by the center-stage convention appearance of the also-rans, who, on behalf of Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin, managed to give speeches that far exceeded in eloquence, force and impact anything they had managed to give in their own causes as candidates.

What took place on the convention stage the last two nights was the emergence of a new conservative leadership, what Mr. Bauer calls “Kmart Republicans,” who have come of age in the Republican, working-class people who periodically voted for Republicans and identified with the party’s cultural values.

But Republicans had a tin ear for them, and now the party of Ronald Reagan, George Bush and Mr. McCain has in Mrs. Palin somebody who doesn’t need any help in talking the Kmart Republicans’ talk and walking their walk because she is one of them.

“She not only broke the glass ceiling in the GOP, she broke Obama’s walls,” said Mr. Bauer.

The fiery pledges by Mr. McCain and Mrs. Palin on winning the wars in Iraq and on terrorism do not lead Mr. Davenport to “describe the McCain foreign policy as neoconservative, but rather strong on national security and defense. The neoconservatives have an adventuresome spirit, wanting to try nation-building and democracy-planting in ways that a realist like McCain will not.”

Mr. McCain succeeded in cutting a strong profile as commander in chief and conveying the idea that, if elected, he will continue the Bush emphasis on national security.

“But I think he will shed much of the rest of the neoconservative foreign-policy agenda,” Mr. Davenport said.