Sarah Palin, who sought the US vice presidency last year, has announced she is stepping down as Alaska governor, fueling swift speculation yesterday of a possible 2012 White House bid.
Palin, who was Republican candidate John McCain’s running mate in last year’s failed presidential campaign, said she would step aside as governor and would be replaced by Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell at the end of the month.
Palin, 45, told a press conference at her lakefront home in Wasilla, Alaska, that she wanted to “take a stand and effect change, not just hit our head against the wall and watch valuable state time and money, millions of your dollars, go down the drain.”
In leaving her post before the end of her first term, Palin, the first woman to stand on a Republican presidential ticket, will be able to travel across the country more freely and build up a national political team, clearing the way for a potential presidential bid of her own.
A June 2 CNN poll had Palin running neck-and-neck with former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney and ex-Arkansas governor Mick Huckabee as the top three favorites to head up the Republican 2012 ticket.
While hinting at broader ambitions, Palin also lamented what she called a “superficial, wasteful, political bloodsport.”
Staying in power as a lame-duck official after deciding not to run for re-election “would just be another dose of ‘politics as usual,’ something I campaigned against and will always oppose,” she said, adding that her decision “has been in the works for quite a while.”
The announcement came as a complete surprise to Alaskans, including members of her own Cabinet.
“Frankly, we didn’t know about it ’til we got out there,” Alaska Department of Revenue Commissioner Pat Galvin said. “It was pretty shocking.”
Republican strategists were also taken aback by the sudden move.
“It’s an enormous gamble — but it could be a shrewd one,” Bill Kristol, a conservative political analyst and editor of the Weekly Standard, wrote on his magazine’s Web site.
“Haven’t conservatives been lamenting the lack of a national leader? Well, now she’ll try to be that,” Kristol wrote.
Republican strategist John Weaver told the Washington Post that “if this is about running for president, it’s about as odd a way as we’ve ever seen.”
Palin has only led the vast, oil-producing northwestern state since December 2006, when she became the youngest person ever to hold Alaska’s governorship.