Saying she is taking her fight "in a new direction," Sarah Palin announced today that she will resign as governor of Alaska and will not seek a second term.
At a press conference outside her home in Wasilla, Palin said she will leave office at the end of this month. And while she did not discuss specific future plans, she said that she was "determined to take the right path for Alaska even though it is unconventional and it is not so comfortable."
Palin, who was elected to the Governor's office in 2006, and who shot to national recognition upon landing on the Republican ticket as John McCain's running mate last year, said that it was possible to be more effective outside of governance.
"My choice is to take a stand and affect 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 this new political environment. Rather, we know we can affect positive change outside government at this moment in time on another scale and actually make a difference for our priorities - so we will, for Alaskans and for Americans."
In a rambling speech that relied heavily upon criticisms of the time and money being expended in state government, Palin said she had given her reasons "very candidly, truthfully," though actually she gave little in the way of concrete reasons for her departure, and did not take any questions.
"I really don't want to disappoint anyone with this announcement, not with the decision that I have made," she said. "All I can ask is that you trust me with this decision and know that it is no more politics-as-usual, and some Alaskans it seems maybe they don't mind wasting public dollars and state time, but I do. I cannot stand here as your governor and allow the millions of dollars and all that time go to waste just so I can hold the title of governor. I don't know if my children are going to allow it anyway."
"The timing and astonishing nature of Palin's announcement will naturally lead people to assume that there is more to the governor's decision to resign than she has let on, and there might well be," said CBSNews.com producer Scott Conroy, who covered Palin's vice presidential campaign last year.
"But in the months since the Republican defeat in November, the Alaska governor has shown time and again a high level of frustration with the baggage that has come with becoming such a high-profile governor and national celebrity," Conroy said. "Many of Palin's former political allies in Alaska have turned on her, and the near-constant barrage of criticism has clearly weighed on the former vice presidential candidate, as her demeanor during the emotional press conference at her lakefront home in Wasilla attests."
Pam Pryor, a spokeswoman for Palin's political action committee SarahPAC, said the group continues to accept donations on its Web site, with an uptick in funds after Palin's announcement.
The announcement caught even current and former Palin advisers by surprise. Former members of the John McCain campaign team, now dispersed across the country, traded perplexed e-mails and phone calls.
She said that the decision has "been in the works for a while," and comes after much consideration and prayer.
"Finally, I polled the most important people in my life - my kids - where the count was unanimous.
"In response to asking, 'Hey, you want me to make a positive difference and fight for all our children's future from outside the governor's office?' It was four yeses and one 'hell, yeah.' That sealed it."
Palin said that she would discuss the details behind her decision "someday," though she did disclose that "much of it had to do with recently seeing the baby brother Trig mocked and ridiculed by some pretty mean-spirited adults recently.
"I sure wish folks could ever understand that we can learn, all of us, from someone like Trig," she added. "The world needs more Trigs, not fewer."
"We just got to put first things first. First things first, as governor, I love my job. I love Alaska. It hurts to make this choice but I am doing what's best for Alaska and I have explained why. So I think of the saying on my parent's refrigerator, a little magnet: 'Don't explain. Your friends don't need it and your enemies won't believe you anyway.'
She was joined at the announcement by her parents, family and state commissioners.
Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell will be sworn in at the Governor's picnic in Fairbanks on July 26; Lieutenant General Craig Campbell will assume his role as Lieutenant Governor.
Apart from her family, there were few reasons given for her announcement, or its timing, albeit for a veiled reference to national politics and the media, which she referred to as a "superficial, wasteful, political blood sport." [Political chatter about Palin's clout within the Republican Party has been heavy in recent weeks, such as when she was by turns invited to and dis-invited from a recent GOP fundraising dinner.]
To that end she fell back upon a sports analogy, likening her leaving office to basketball.
"You are naive if you don't see a full court press from the national level picking away right now a good point guard," she said.
She further described her role as a GOP point guard: "She drives through a full-court press protecting it all, keeping her head up, because she needs to keep her eye on the basket. She knows exactly when to pass the ball so that the [team] can win. That is what I'm doing. Keeping our eye on the ball that represents sound priorities, energy independence and smaller government and national security and freedom. I know when it is time to pass the ball for victory."
CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes reports that the former high school basketball start has also been on the defense in Alaska, where the Anchorage Daily News reported this week that the state has spent $300,000 investigating 15 ethics complaints against the governor, most notably state-paid family trips and Troopergate.
She also paid tribute to American armed forces, and talked of a recent visit to wounded troops in Kosovo: "We can all learn from our selfless, selfless troops. They are bold and they don't give up and they take a stand and they know that life is short so they choose not to waste time. They choose to be productive and to serve something greater than self and to build up their families and their states and our great country."
"Her stepping down at the end of the month allows her to focus on her future political plans:," said CBS News political director Steve Chaggaris. "She won't be restricted by the trappings of a faraway governor's office and the continuing firing squad from her opponents in Alaska, and won't have to worry about a potentially tough gubernatorial re-election bid in 2010."
"It will clear the deck for Palin to focus on raising money and speaking to Republicans around the country as she gears up for 2012," Chaggaris added.
"Going back to Alaska wasn't a safe haven. She sees people like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich, who aren't tethered to a political office, getting a head-start. Now she doesn't have to worry about answering to people in Alaska, and be in a more convenient situation to focus on national campaigning and establishing a base, rather being stuck in Wasilla, Juneau or Fairbanks."
Conroy points out that "she still has an enormous base of support among grassroots conservatives, who will continue to come out in droves as she seeks warmer pastures across the Lower 48.
"Though she has a big hill to climb to regain credibility in many circles, those who write off Sarah Palin's political future do so at their own peril," Conroy adds.