Saturday, July 4, 2009
Palin To Step Down - The Wall Street Journal
JULY 4, 2009, 12:42 P.M. ET Palin to Quit as Alaska Governor, Won't Seek Re-Election
Source Says Palin Was Bogged Down by Opposition by Democrats and Fellow Republicans
By JIM CARLTON and YUKARI IWATANI KANE
Sarah Palin said on Friday that she will not run for a second term as governor of Alaska and will transfer her responsibilities to the state's lieutenant governor.
Palin to Step Down
The Alaska governor makes the surprising announcement the she will not be seeking re-election and will leave office by the end of the month.
In a statement, Ms. Palin, who is in her final year in office as governor, said, "I am determined to take the right path for Alaska even though it is not the easiest path." She added, "I also felt that to embrace the conventional 'Lame Duck' status in this particular climate would just be another dose of 'politics as usual.'"
Ms. Palin said she would transfer power to Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell on July 26.
Ms. Palin's decision not to run for a second term may fuel speculation about whether she may make a presidential bid in the 2012 elections. But many political pundits agreed this probably spells the end of her political career. "No matter what level of politics you're at, when you quit one office halfway through, it damages your prospects of higher office," said Ivan Moore, a pollster in Anchorage. "People are always going to wonder if the going gets tough, is she going to quit that."
Ms. Palin was the vice presidential nominee for the Republican party in the 2008 election. At the time, her selection by Republican presidential candidate John McCain drew controversy because she was a relative neophyte on the political scene.
Speculation swirled on what drove Ms. Palin's departure. Her return to Alaska after the 2008 presidential campaign had been marked by almost nonstop controversies. The Republican-led legislature in April rejected her appointment of a lawyer for attorney general who was controversial, in part, for his outspokenness. She tangled with lawmakers over other issues, including her decision to reject some federal stimulus money. And she brawled repeatedly with the media and others over what she called attacks on her and her family. A blow-up with late night host David Letterman -- which happened when she called out the CBS host for making sexual innuendos about one of her daughters -- was particularly well publicized.
Through it all, her once stratospheric popularity in Alaska began chipping away. As of early 2007, Ms. Palin's approval rating among Alaskans stood at an unprecedented 92%, according to pollster Mr. Moore, but it fell to as low as in the low 60s as of early this year. Had she chosen to seek re-election, most pundits believe she probably would have emerged victorious, despite her weakened standing. Now that she is out of the picture, the governor's race in Alaska is considered wide open.
'She Was Tired of Being Boxed In'
A source close to Ms. Palin said her decision appears to have been driven in part by a desire to escape the increasingly difficult state politics of Alaska. Returning to Juneau after her national run, she has been bogged down by opposition from Democrats seeking to undermine a possible national leader of the opposition, and by fellow Republicans irked by her attacks across the country against the state's political establishment -- a staple of her attempts to portray herself as a maverick.
"She was tired of being boxed in, of not being able to push her agenda forward," the person said. "It was clear her agenda could not move forward."
The person said Ms. Palin's camp has insisted they were aware of no imminent scandal about to break.
While acknowledging that the governor may be hurting her chances at the presidential nomination, the source said that Ms. Palin was now more free to focus on rallying Republicans around the country -- and to make money focusing on writing and speaking.
"If you throw caution to the wind as it relates to the 2012 nomination and put yourself in her shoes, ironically this makes a lot of sense as it relates to her finances, her ability to campaign and rally Republicans around the country, and especially as it relates to her family."
Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele said in a statement that he plans to talk to Gov. Palin "very soon" and suggested she will help campaign this year in two gubernatorial races. "She is an important and galvanizing voice in the Republican Party," he said. "I believe she will be very helpful to the Party this year as we wage critical campaigns in Virginia and New Jersey."
Willam Kristol, editor of the conservative political magazine The Weekly Standard, is taking what he calls a "contrarian" view on Ms. Palin's announcement. Through a blog posting Friday, Mr. Kristol, an influential Palin supporter, said that, "If Palin wants to run in 2012, why not do exactly what she announced today? It's an enormous gamble -- but it could be a shrewd one."
He said Ms. Palin is "freeing herself from the duties of the governorship. Now she can do her book, give speeches, travel the country and the world, campaign for others, meet people, get more educated on the issues -- and without being criticized for neglecting her duties in Alaska. I suppose she'll take a hit for leaving the governorship early -- but how much of one? She's probably accomplished most of what she was going to get done as governor, and is leaving a simpatico lieutenant governor in charge."He suggested it wouldn't all be fun -- "She'll be under intense and hostile scrutiny, and she'll have to perform well" -- as she tries to become the national leader conservatives are seeking. "The odds are against her pulling it off," he said. "But I wouldn't bet against it."
At the Democratic National Committee, Communications Director Brad Woodhouse called the decision "bizarre."
"Either Sarah Palin is leaving the people of Alaska high and dry to pursue her long shot national political ambitions or she's unwilling to do the job now that her popularity has dimmed," he said. "Either way -- her decision to abandon her post and the people of Alaska who elected her continues a pattern of bizarre behavior that more than anything else may explain the decision she made today."
Ms. Palin's announcement came as a bombshell to many Alaskans. "Holy smokes, we are shocked," said Mike Porcaro, a radio talk-show host in Anchorage.
U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat who last year took over the seat long held by Republican Ted Stevens, said Ms. Palin gave no hint she would be leaving when he met with her in her downtown Anchorage office for 45 minutes two days ago.
"I'm as surprised as all Alaskans by Gov. Palin's decision...," Sen. Begich said in a statement. "There was speculation she would not seek re-election, but she gave no indication of a resignation."
Mr. Parnell, a fellow Republican and close political ally who is taking Ms. Palin's place, congratulated her on her accomplishments. "It is with a heavy heart that I hear these words," Mr. Parnell said in a statement. "You have been a strong leader for our state, you've inspired a nation, and you've ignited the fire of real hope around the world."
—Melanie Trottman contributed to this article.
Write to Jim Carlton at firstname.lastname@example.org and Yukari Iwatani Kane at email@example.com