Wow. Not sure what to make of this. Perhaps she’s trying to one-up Michael Jackson in taking the heat off Mark Sanford. (“Take that, Jacko!” Which Republican governor will step up next?)
This could be, as Bill Kristol suggests, part of a risky but shrewd long game, not for a run in 2012, but way off in 2016 or 2020. Some folks have mentioned Nixon, rehabilitating himself in the 1960s, and skipping the 1964 election. She may have the self-awareness that she’s taken big hits below the waterline, and that her best course is the patient rebuilding of her political life over a decade rather than the next two election cycles. Now she’ll have the time to read and study and cultivate wider portfolio as Jonah and others have suggested. But even if she wants to run in 2012, it is certainly the case that it is hard to be a player on the national stage while being governor of Alaska since it is so remote, even in the jet age. (It take longer to get to Alaska than Europe from the east coast and midwest.) If so, she should say this openly. Make a virtue out of it.
Then, too, I wonder, and am slightly hopeful in fact, that she is indeed doing this for authentic family reasons. Political life is hell on decent family life. I have a hard time thinking of a single politician, at any level, who has a happy family life. Kids are usually a mess; non-messed up kids are the rare exception. Whenever I talk to someone about whether to run for any office, that’s the first and last aspect I bring up. You shouldn’t do it until your kids are grown or off to college is my opinion. This might really be a case of where she has reckoned the cost to her family of near-term political ambition, and chosen her family. Good for her if so.