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Palin's decision to resign: Is it smart?

Some analysts say her political career is over. Others say she will be in a better position now to run for national office.

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“Nixon wasn’t in office for the four years before he ran in 1968, and Reagan wasn’t in office for . . . four years before 1980,” says Mr. Norquist. “This gives you more freedom to go out and introduce yourself."

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He added: "It is not irrational for somebody who wanted to be president to say: 'I'm going to step out here and be a national leader, which I cannot do tied down to a state legislature which delights in being annoying.' "

Bad timing, bad judgment, say critics

On the other side of ledger, Palin’s political opponents now will waste no time in branding her as a quitter. They point to the suddenness of the decision, its announcement at the beginning of a three-day holiday weekend, and say this is another example of why she is not qualified for national office.

“She’s no longer a serious candidate for president,” says Larry Sabato, a political scientist at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. “The long knives have been out for her for a long time, but she has just handed the longest knife of all to her opponents.”

As to other possibilities, some pundits have mentioned that Palin might want to run for one of Alaska’s two Senate seats. But that’s a state race, and Alaska voters now might view her as having run out on them.

Time away from politics?

It could also be that Palin is sick of politics and wants to get out of the business completely. Given the ups and downs she has experienced so far, this might not be altogether surprising. By resigning now, she can focus on making money by writing books and giving speeches while her run for the vice-presidency is still fresh in the minds of her audience.

And she would get to keep the cash. After resigning, she will not be bound by any ethics laws that restrict the outside income Alaska governors can earn.

“It may be that she has a whole stack of other things that she wants to do,” says Ivan Moore, an Anchorage-based political consultant who generally works for Democrats. “Good luck to her if that’s what she wants.”

Yereth Rosen in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.