With the stunning news of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin's sudden resignation, it is easy to jump to the conclusion that there is "something else out there" that has forced her to make this decision. There might well be, but ever since her return to Alaska after her electoral defeat in November, it has been very clear that she has loathed the new dynamic that has greeted her there.
The recent Mark Sanford saga and other political scandals have trained us to assume the worst, but as a former campaign aide who remains close to Palin cautions, "It's a sad commentary when people jump to negative conclusions."
During her first year-and-a-half as governor, Palin seemingly could do no wrong as she frequently reached across the aisle to Democrats, racked up a string of high-profile legislative successes, and caught the eye of John McCain when she challenged the Republican presidential nominee's views on drilling in ANWR during their first face to face meeting in February of 2008.
But her beloved Alaska has been anything but accommodating since the McCain/Palin campaign's electoral defeat in November. She has been under a constant barrage of attacks there from critics, who have been joined by many of the same people who had once been her political allies.
Until November, Palin was used to winning in everything she did and achieving career success in a startlingly rapid manner. She does not like to lose, and criticism continues to weigh heavily on her, as her skin has not seemed to thicken since the campaign.
During the election, Palin obsessed over her media coverage, often spending hours on her campaign jet watching cable news and becoming exasperated over what critical commentators had to say about her. Since then, she has continued to voice her annoyance with what she sees as a constant stream of unfair attacks. Often, she has seemed unable to exercise enough restraint to avoid getting dragged down into the mud with everyone from Alaska bloggers to a late-night comedian.
Even after a series of public relations disasters, no one in her inner circle has shown a willingness to prevent Palin from engaging with her critics large and small.
As Palin takes the next step in her remarkable political career, she is poised to travel the country, helping Republican candidates and making political friends along the way. She will be received by thousands of adoring supporters wherever she goes-a much more appealing prospect than what she currently faces in Alaska.
Until evidence surfaces to the contrary, it seems apparent that Sarah Palin simply decided enough was enough. Though this unorthodox move will raise further questions about her judgment, her conservative base will continue to support her no matter what she does next.
Palin has been underestimated many times before in her career, and anyone who assumes that she has dug her own political grave does so at their own peril.