One of the problems is that nobody in the McCain administration spent the time to make the case you just made here. The mainstream media did a hatchet job on her and nobody tried to correct the record.
McCain ran a dreadful campaign. Sarah was the best thing ever to happen to him. He never played to her strangths and let the media savage her, serving her up to Gibson and Couric. What a stiff he was.
She most definitely was a plus in energizing the base, but her negligent roll-out damaged her brand as it related to the indies and moderate dems.