It's real. It has jazzed the base. It is still early but it gives the gunners, Jesus lovers and bigots a reason to hold their nose and vote for McCain who they do not trust.
The culture war has always been a reality in America. Conventional wisdom traces the internal clash of civilizations to the 60's but right wing populism has always been around such as in the 20's (Scopes), at the turn of the 20th century (the progressives-notorious Jew haters and nose turners of the great unwashed), most Southerners were convinced the cosmopolitan North was a power hungry cabal of elite capitalists (they were), Jackson's appeal went right to the heart of the homespun Cider drinkers and Indian killers and we could probably come up with many more examples.
The problem for the United States left (we have a minuscule Left) is that liberals for the most part are elitists. It's the nature of the system. They tend to be better educated, higher income and appreciate the city life to shooting and praying, particularly the leadership. The backbone of the Democratic Party; organized labor, Blacks, Jews and most women are not of the upper class, sans Jews, but the folk that are trotted out as leaders have a definite urban, and urbane, bias (Kennedy, McGovern, Mondale, Dukakis, Gore, Kerry, Obama). Notice the 2 winners, Carter and Clinton, were southerners with some rural or HillBillary in them.
It's not that the Republican leadership are not of the upper class for the most part but if you look at the leaders of the populist right and the Republican Party they have the meanness and patriotism that appeals to men, white ethnics and the small business suburbanites.
Since organized labor has declined since the late 60's and the South has flipped parties because of race the Democrats must depend not only on urban folk and labor but also on the suburbs. This has made them the handmaidens of Wall Street, think Robert Rubin, and budget balancers. Not exactly the Huey Long "Make Every Man a King" program.
This is why the Palin's of the world do well. Because they bring home the pork, while talking tough on taxes and they pose at church and in the tree stand. Most folk will accept less government for city folk, thus vouchers there but not in the suburbs or rural areas but know that they are getting cops, prisons, roads and prescriptions so they continue to vote for the porky Republicans. That's why McCain alone would lose.