Concerns About Spotlight's Glare, Effect on Family, Prompted Palin's Decision

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hugged Sean Parnell, her lieutenant governor, after she announced on Friday she would be stepping down at the end of July.
Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hugged Sean Parnell, her lieutenant governor, after she announced on Friday she would be stepping down at the end of July. (By Robert Deberry -- Mat-su Valley Frontiersman Via Associated Press)
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By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, July 5, 2009

Why did Sarah Palin step down?

Theories abound. But some of the people closest to the Alaska governor say she wanted to regain control of a political script that slipped out of her hands the moment she burst onto the national stage. She also wanted to shield herself and her family from the attacks that seem to have been aimed permanently at them in the 311 days since Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) announced her as his running mate, according to some former campaign aides and other advisers who speak regularly with Palin or her husband, Todd.

The Sarah Palin who stood outside her Wasilla, Alaska, lakefront home Friday to surrender her term with 18 months remaining appeared vulnerable and anything but the pugnacious hockey mom and combative candidate whom Americans came to either adore or revile. The woman who said she would never blink suddenly tired of what she deemed the "superficial, wasteful political blood sport."

So she quit.

Yet Palin's vulnerability masks her firepower, ambition and strong will, advisers said. Not one to fit comfortably into convention -- and not comfortable being a victim, either -- Palin spoke Friday as if she was rolling the dice and betting on herself. She presented herself as a game-changer stepping onto a stage of her own making.

What that stage may be remains the big question looming over national politics this weekend, and advisers said she is truly undecided about running for president in 2012, or ever. But for the first time, she recently solicited money for her political action committee.

And yesterday she strongly suggested that she intends to remain a player in national politics.

"I've never thought I needed a title before one's name to forge progress in America," Palin wrote in a message to supporters on her Facebook page. "I am now looking ahead and how we can advance this country together with our values of less government intervention, greater energy independence, stronger national security, and much-needed fiscal restraint. I hope you will join me. Now is the time to rebuild and help our nation achieve greatness!"

What is certain, however, is that Palin has tired of being governor -- of working with a legislature increasingly intent on blocking her agenda, of commuting 4 1/2 hours from Wasilla to the state Capitol in Juneau, of watching her family be tabloid fodder.

This spring, as Palin was weighing whether to run for reelection in 2010, she turned to John P. Coale, a prominent Washington lawyer. He had helped her establish a political action committee and has become her political consigliere of sorts.

"She asked me, 'Well, what do you think all this is? Why are all these people attacking me?' " Coale said. "I said to her: 'Look, that's what happens. They did it to Hillary [Rodham Clinton], and Hillary just pushed through it. It's not going to really stop. . . . You just have to ignore it and move on.' "

But, Coale added, "she couldn't ignore the hits on the kids. She said, 'It brought out the mama grizzly in me.' She acted like a mother grizzly bear when her cubs were being attacked."

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