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Palin Will Resign as Governor of Alaska this Month     Permalink

"We've seen a lot of nutty behavior from governors and Republican leaders in the last three months, but this one is at the top of that," said John Weaver, a long-time Republican operative close to Sen. John McCain about Sarah Palin's surprise resignation yesterday. Palin did not give any real explanation of why she is resigning as governor of Alaska other than that she was not planning to run for reelection and did not want to be a lame duck. She also said she polled her children, who didn't like her being attacked all the time. She will be succeeded by Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell (R-AK), who ran unsuccessfully for the House of Representatives and lost the primary to incumbent Don Young.

Palin's move is certainly going to dominate the political world for many a news cycle. Most politicians would give their eye teeth for even a small shot at their party's nomination for the presidency. Palin was probably the favorite at this moment. Whether she is crazy like a fox or just plain crazy will occupy much ink and many pixels for months to come.

At the very least, this step is seriously unorthodox and will freak out a lot of people. Assuming she wants to be President, the safer approach would have been to remain silent about running for re-election, just saying she had not made up her mind yet about her future. The filing deadline for governor is close to a year from now. As long as no one knew if she was running for governor again, she would not have been a lame duck and the state legislature would have had to treat her with respect. Saying she did not want to be a lame duck is disingenuous since she is the one causing the orthopedic problem in the duck by making this announcement.

Of course, she may well still be thinking of running for President in 2012, but she already had a reputation as a lightweight and this move doesn't give her additional gravitas. Her not wanting to be governor in 2011 while starting a presidential run makes perfect sense. Alaska is just too far from Iowa and New Hampshire and if she spent too much time away from home, people would accuse her of neglecting her gubernatorial duties. But if she is resigning for the purpose of gearing up for 2012 already, she will take a lot of heat for it, starting with questions like:

      - If governing Alaska was too tough for you, how will you run the whole country?
      - If you are elected President, how do we know you won't quit when you learn where the buck stops?
      - Why do you think 2 1/2 years as governor of an empty state qualifies you to be President?

Certainly no one will be asking other Republican candidates anything like this.

If Palin vanishes from the public eye until after the 2010 elections, it will be hard to make a comeback and be taken seriously. Comebacks happen--witness Richard Nixon--but Nixon had been a congressman, senator, vice president, presidential candidate (who came within a whisker of winning in 1960), and finally gubernatorial candidate in 1962, before returning to private life. His fame wasn't based on a single 3-month campaign. Palin doesn't have anything like that background. Of course, she might try to land a TV show on Fox or some other job that keeps her in the public eye for the next two years.

So where does this leave the Republicans in 2012? Palin has probably mortally wounded herself with independents and Democrats, as they are going to regard her as flakey. But to be elected President, you first have to get the nomination, and this step probably won't hurt her with the Republican base. But her primary opponents are not going to be bashful about raising the above questions in public. At the moment, her opponents appear to be former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (and possibly soon-to-be-former Minnesota governor Tim Pawlenty). In 2011, Mark Sanford is more likely to be living in Argentina with his soul mate than running for President.

Gingrich would love to be President but he combines the age of John McCain with the marital history of Rudy Giuliani. McCain treated his first wife very poorly but the media left him alone on this because he never claimed to be the "family values" candidate. Gingrich won't be treated with kid gloves. His having an affair with a staffer while violently attacking Bill Clinton for having an affair with a staffer will become campaign fodder. His waiting until his first wife (his high school math teacher) was in the hospital for cancer surgery to tell her he wanted a divorce will surely charm women voters.

So who's left? Huckabee may inherit the evangelical vote since he is an ordained Baptist minister. But he ran last time and had trouble breaking out of this narrow demographic. Still, his folksy ways and guitar playing may convince some people that he is just an "ordinary guy." Mitt Romney will probably have Wall St. on his side again and he could dump another $40 million of his own money into the campaign without having to eat dog food. But Romney doesn't excite people the way Obama and Palin do. Still, if the economy is still in the toilet in 2012, he could run as the "grown up" and maybe even get the nomination almost by default.

And, of course, someone not on the radar at all now may turn up in 2011. In fact, Palin's strange move may encourage other candidates who figured they couldn't match her popularity to come out of the woodwork. All in all, our best guess as to the effect of the resignation is that it may increase Palin's chances of getting the nomination (assuming she wants it) but decrease her chances in the general election as independents and Democrats are likely to see her as a quitter and opportunistic. If she really is disgusted with politics and does not plan to run, then Romney is the likely beneficiary of her move.

There are at least two other conceivable explanations to Palin's bizarre move. First, there may be some big scandal about her about to break and by resigning, the impact will be lessened. Second, she has been the subject of 15 ethics probes in Alaska and hiring lawyers has been expensive. Neither she nor her husband is wealthy and they have five children. By resigning, she is now perfectly free to travel around the country giving well-paid speeches just to earn a lot of money.

Here is a link to her resignation speech.

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