Sarah Palin's appearance in Long Island this week was noteworthy for several reasons.

The most important one, however, was it signals a new phase in her campaign for president.

Palin wooed a large crowd of Long Islanders at the Crest Hollow Club in Woodbury.

The audience was a mixture of business people drawn from both political backgrounds.

Long Island was a great location for Palin to choose to break out of the adoring crowd circuit she regularly encounters in friendly states.

Long Islanders however, are the ultimate switch voters, who move back and forth between Democrats and Republicans.

This time she won them over-- big.

She took questions on all topics and displayed what ' Newsday' called an impressive knowledge on a range of subjects.

This is the real Sarah Palin, the one you can hardly find behind the media image and the sneering stuff of late night comedians.

Given how undistinguished this Republican presidential field is Palin looks more and more like an option for the GOP.

Instead of pining for Chris Christie they may want to look North to Alaska for their best hope.

She brings excitement, commitment and a sense of something new to a very staid political party.

Sure she will start as an outsider, but how far more outside can you be when you were Governor of Alaska and a woman to boot?

And look where she is now.

I have written here consistently that Palin continues to be underestimated by the media and the Washington echo chamber.

As she proved in Long Island she's as smart as a whip, looks great, is confident and has a plan whether you like it or not.

I see no reason to change my long-term forecast that she will be the Republican nominee.

This week I believe she took another important step.