Sarah Palin was, indeed, a great strategical (for campaign) pick and gave McCain a shot at winning. It took a lot of the novelty edge off Obama and despite the insistence that the novelty isn't a factor it is. Obama would be a solid candidate in any color but that he's making history is a big part of the excitement around him.
Now the Republicans have their own history to buzz about, and their own improbable candidate.
I don't think it will work well enough for McCain to win, and had Obama picked Hillary the Republicans wouldn't have even tried it, but there's no denying that Palin breathed fresh air into McCain's campaign and is energizing some significant Republican demographics.