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Governor Palin stuns friends, foes with abrupt resignation

EVEN for a nonconformist, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has defied political logic with her sudden, stunning announcement to leave office more than a year early.

Supporters and critics alike say the former Republican vice presidential candidate's resignation, announced on Friday afternoon and effective July 26, is an inexplicable move for a high-profile Republican widely seen as a contender for a White House run in 2012.

A half-term governor campaigning for US president?

"If she is thinking that leaving her term 16 months early is going to help her prepare to maybe go on to bigger and better things on the political stage, I think she's sadly mistaken. You just can't quit," said Andrew Halcro, a Palin critic who lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to her.

Palin's abrupt announcement rattled the Republican Party but left open the possibility of a presidential run. She and her staff are keeping mum on her future plans.

Palin's spokesman David Murrow said: "She's looking forward to serving the public outside the governor's chair."

And Pam Pryor, a spokeswoman for Palin's political action committee, said the group continues to accept donations on its Website.

The announcement caught even current and former Palin advisers by surprise. Former members of Senator John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign team, now dispersed across the country, traded perplexed e-mails and phone calls about the vice presidential nominee's decision to step down.

In a hastily arranged news conference at her home in Wasilla, a suburb of Anchorage, Palin said she had decided against running for re-election as Alaska's governor, and believed it was best to leave office even though she had 1.5 years left to her term. Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell will take her place.

"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road," Palin said. "They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that."

Palin has proven formidable among the party's base. But the last week brought a highly critical piece in Vanity Fair magazine, with unnamed campaign aides questioning if she was really prepared for the presidency.

In Alaska, she saw her popularity wane this year. She's become a polarizing figure, and multiple ethics complaints have been filed against her with the state personnel board.

All but two of the 15 complaints have been dismissed with no findings of wrongdoing.


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