It is becoming known as the 'Palin bubble'. Now that the one and only vice- presidential debate is over, Sarah Palin is maintaining a studied distance from the media pack as the campaign reaches its climax. Republican Mrs Palin - as feisty as she is inexperienced - is clearly one of the hottest stories of an already historic election, illustrated by the fact that a record 73 million Americans tuned in to watch her debate Democrat rival Joe Biden last week. Yet her handlers are determined to limit any spontaneous campaigning by Mrs Palin. Never before has a vice-presidential candidate kept such a distance. The dozens of reporters who shadow candidates can normally expect plenty of opportunities for quick questions on-the-hoof and longer background sessions between campaign stops. But not for the unfortunates tasked with tailing Mrs Palin. 'We barely know who she is,' is a common cry. Few expect any change in this approach before polling day on November 4 - other than the odd piece of spin delivered to the safest of the sympathetic, right-wing media. Given her woeful performances in two national television interviews - appearances so jarring that even some Republicans were urging Republican presidential contender John McCain to drop her before the debate - her minders' caution is perhaps understandable. But another factor is also at work. By keeping on this tack, Mrs Palin stays in control of her message. Given her role as an attack dog - she has characterised herself as a pitbull - that means she never has to fully defend or explain her sound bites. Already Mrs Palin has shown a veteran politician's knack for distorting opponents' policies and questioning their character - something, in fairness, both sides are capable of. Over the weekend she accused Democrat presidential contender Barack Obama of 'palling around with terrorists' and not being 'a man who sees America as you or I do'. 'We see America as a force for good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism,' she added - a phrase, ironically, that could have been uttered by Senator Obama. Rather than ever having to justify her statements, she has worked herself into a position where she just hangs them out there in her speeches, and lets a willing cable television commentariat rake over the coals. It can be powerful stuff, particularly given her role of stirring conservatives' feel-good sentiment and energising Senator McCain's shaky base. It is also the kind of tough tactic that we can expect to see a lot more of as the McCain campaign tries to battle back into contention. No party in modern campaign history has won after being at least 5 points adrift in polls with just four weeks to go. Mrs Palin's avoidance of questions is merely part of the ploy. Another is her frequent attacks on the 'liberal' mainstream media and 'Washington elites'. Just as she staked out her right in the debate to skirt questions from Senator Biden or the moderator, Mrs Palin has repeatedly expressed a desire to speak 'straight to the American people' without any media filter. In an interview, with friendly Fox News, Mrs Palin explained away her failure to answer even basic questions - what papers she read and what Supreme Court decisions she disagreed with - as 'annoyance'. 'It's like, man, no matter what you say, you are going to get clobbered ... if you choose to try to pivot and go to another subject that you believe that Americans want to hear about, you get clobbered for that, too. 'So I have to apologise for being a bit annoyed, but there's also an indication of being outside the Washington elite, outside of the media elite.' Mrs Palin is not the first to employ such tactics. As president, Bill Clinton bristled at suggestions that he needed the media's help to communicate with voters, despite the fact he could handle press conferences with ease. Any White House staffer who dared suggest he was not talking to the press enough risked a flash of the legendary Clinton temper for questioning his relationship with the American people. The railing against so-called elites - a form of shooting the messenger - goes back even further. The ill-fated Spiro Agnew - another governor plucked from obscurity to serve as vice-president - turned it into an art form on behalf of his Republican boss, Richard Nixon. Agnew once described Vietnam war critics as 'the effete corps of impudent snobs who characterise themselves as intellectuals'. He later resigned in disgrace over a financial scandal. While Republicans are confident Pitbull Palin will prove more successful than Agnew, they privately question the no-interviews strategy. Behind in the polls and facing the most serious economic downturn in several generations, they need every opportunity to sell their financial, education and health care policies. So far, Mrs Palin has shored up the Republican heartland. But, with Senator Obama sucking up independent voters by the day, McCain-Palin will need more than that to win.