What was Sarah Palin thinking?

No one knows why the governor's resigning, or what she'll do next -- but her base likes the move

By Alex Koppelman
July 4, 2009 10:10PM (UTC)
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Well, I certainly picked a hell of a day for a six-hour drive. When the news of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's resignation broke yesterday, I was stuck in traffic somewhere on I-95 and unable to blog.

Of course, the other way to look at it is that Palin picked a hell of a day for such a big announcement -- just one more odd element in what was, overall, a bizarre, inexplicable move.


But the drive (and a rental car equipped with satellite radio) did give me a chance to listen to the reaction on conservative talk radio and Fox News. And that confirmed my suspicions about the way the move will be received: Palin's base will, with a few exceptions, continue to love her. They may even support her all the more strongly now -- they were already primed to sympathize with the arguments she made in her speech, especially the ones about being victimized by the national media and about a different kind of politics.

The problem for Palin, assuming she still wants to be in politics, is that she already had a devoted base. The people she needs if she wants to make a run at the presidency in 2012 are the kind likely to be unimpressed by this move -- the Republican establishment, especially money men and veteran operatives, along with more moderate Republicans and independents.

Again, though, that's assuming she wants to mount a presidential campaign, or even stay in politics. NBC's Andrea Mitchell hears Palin's done, but the conventional wisdom -- buttressed by a few signs -- is that this is a preliminary move towards a future at the national level politically. If so, it'd be an unconventional move at best, a fatal one at worst, but that still seems like the most likely explanation.


Still, there are rumors flying about that some sort of scandal is behind all this, and that would make some sense, given the sudden rush to make the announcement. (Some local reporters, given very short notice, didn't even have time to get to the speech.) There will, undoubtedly, be no shortage of reporters looking into that once the holiday weekend is over, but for now, there's no solid reason to believe some bombshell is on its way.

Update: If you're curious about the scandal rumors going around, the two best places to learn about them are probably Max Blumenthal's article in the Daily Beast and the piece by AKMuckraker of Mudflats fame currently up on the Huffington Post.

The rumor getting the most currency on the left side of the blogosphere is that Palin's house was built for free by friends of her husband's looking for favors once she became governor. That could turn out to be true -- really, anything could at this point -- but I'd take it with a bunch of salt for now.


For one thing, as a colleague observed to me today, that sort of story just doesn't seem like the kind of thing that would make Palin quit, even if there was an investigation into it. Everything she'd done up to this point seemed to indicate that she'd stay in office and fight that kind of allegation.

Beyond that, the way Blumenthal outlines the story, the company that built the house would have been spending a lot of money for a very uncertain payoff. When the house was built, Palin wasn't even officially running for governor yet, and there was no guarantee she'd win once she did. That doesn't mean the story's not true -- the company could have decided it was a gamble worth making -- but it's definitely something to consider as these stories make the rounds.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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