Scenes from a homecoming, early this morning in Fairbanks:

NBC/NJ’s Matthew E. Berger reports that Palin couldn’t wait to descend down the stairs from her campaign plane lat night. The plans called for her to wait for the media and staff to leave first, set up, and then allow the doors to open for a grand entrance. But the sight of her family, and several thousand of her Alaskan brethren waiting for her on the tarmac of the Fairbanks airport, was too much. Palin could be heard nearly squealing with delight in the front of the plane at the sight of three of her children at the foot of the stairs, and according to several aides, refused to stay inside the plane.

For all the (often belittling) references to her as a hockey mom and moose-hunter, the key to the public’s fascination with her, I think, is the unexpected flashes of brilliance she shows as a retail politician. No one I know, even among blog readers and grassroots conservatives who have been high on her for months, saw that coming; the assumption was that if McCain picked her, we’d be getting someone young, smart, appealing, with a welcome reputation for ethics and a compelling bio, but probably a bit out of her depth on big stages trying to connect with voters. Watch the first five minutes here and appreciate how expertly she works the crowd. It’s all very colloquial and apparently off-the-cuff, but there’s more artistry than meets the eye. Maybe Charlie Gibson’s right to hope she goes easy on him.

Speaking of which, your exit question: What time should a panicky pessimistic blogger start drinking today to be properly “prepared” for the first segment of Gibson’s interview with her? It won’t air in full until 6:30 ET, but the first clips should start appearing around 4 p.m. on ABC’s website. No time like the present!

Update: Needless to say, the excitement is worth a lot more than buzzworthy clips of people cheering on the news.

Tags: Sarah Palin