Sarah Palin's announcement that she's stepping down as Governor of Alaska caught more than a few people, this commentator included, by surprise. Some media outlets have already speculated about why, so let me humbly throw in my two cents' worth.
- There's a scandal brewing. My first instinct was to think that something was coming down the pike that would undercut Palin's viability. Usually when politicians make what seems to be an illogical decision to step down, there's more afoot than what we know. So far, Leftist blogs like the Huffington Post are saying that Palin may be federally indicted for embezzling money from a sports facility Alaska built using federal funds. If that's the case, then her resignation makes some sense. However, I have yet to see a credible source on the story surface. In fact, most of the stories I've seen so far loop back on themselves, meaning that they use themselves as the primary source for the story. Until more facts come out, I'll keep this on the table as a possibility, but I'm not jumping in headfirst yet.
- She's making a run for Senator. This is another possibility, one that seems more realistic. With 2010 so close, candidates for the US Senate usually start their campaigns or exploratory committees around this time, so it's not unusual for someone like Palin to step down from her current job and start eyeing a national seat. Although I'm not sure why she'd want to be a Senator in the current DC environment, if she's running for the Senate, now would be a good time to make the push.
- She's making a run for President in 2012. This one is also a possibility, one that many conservatives hope is the case. I'm not convinced, however. When the primary season doesn't begin for 2 years, jumping out of a high profile position now isn't the best idea, especially in a political season that can turn quite fickle on Palin. If she is running for President in 2012, she may be buoyed by the fact that she helped the McCain camp more than they're willing to admit, but that's not always the sign that she herself is the prime mover. If her idea is to start now for a 2012 run, she may not get as far as she thinks she will.
- She wants to spare Alaska from her scandals. To say Palin has been scandal-ridden since she was announced as John McCain's running mate in 2008 is a gross understatement. To date, Palin has been slapped with 15 ethics complaints, and all 15 have been dismissed. Even so, it's been draining on Palin financially, possibly spiritually, and from an image standpoint to have to keep answering charges, legitimate or not. And when Palin's in the news, so is Alaska. Palin may be feeling that the scandals that have followed her since 2008 are negatively impacting her life to the point that she cannot effectively do her job. If her public image is to be believed, that's something she cannot tolerate in herself, so stepping down would have been the only option available to her in her eyes.
- She wants to fight back against those who have attacked her. As the Governor of a state and a public figure, Palin was limited in what she could say or do. Granted, there is some leeway for slander/libel suits filed by public figures, but not much. As a private citizen, however, she has more legal avenues. The number of avenues will depend on whether she's pursuing this angle and how the courts determine her status as a public figure or a private citizen, but I wouldn't rule it out, given the slanders leveled against her.
- She's out of politics. Seriously, I wouldn't put this past her. Palin isn't in the public service game because she has a long-term plan to be on the government dole. She seems like the type that could walk away from politics for good and be none the worse for wear. She could be sick enough of all the hassle and decided to pack it in to spend a more normal life. With young children and a teenage daughter with a new baby in the family, the "me time" angle is certainly worth considering.
- Fallout from the David Letterman situation. Sometimes an event happens that puts everything into perspective. The situation with David Letterman making a a bad joke at the expense of Sarah Palin's children may have been one of those "whoa" moments for the Governor. When something that major happens, you need time to process it without outside distractions. She may not have been prepared for the depth the Left would go to derail her future, of which the Letterman joke was part and parcel of at its core. In order to take away the Left's fuel for their anti-Palin bonfire, she may be taking herself out of the equation.
Right now, all of this is speculation, and the only one who truly knows the real reason. Either way, it's far more complex than we think, and I'm sure we'll find out the truth in due time.