Palin resigns from office

The former vice presidential candidate's decision is seen as a move to prepare for a run at the White House in 2012.

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Sarah Palin has stunned the political world with her announcement to leave office more than a year early. Supporters and critics alike say the former Republican vice presidential candidate's resignation, announced Friday afternoon and effective July 26, is an inexplicable move for a high-profile Republican widely seen as a contender for a White House run in 2012. A half-term governor campaigning for president? "If she is thinking that leaving her term 16 months early is going to help her prepare to maybe go on to bigger and better things on the political stage, I think she's sadly mistaken. You just can't quit," said Andrew Halcro, a critic of Mrs Palin, who lost the 2006 gubernatorial race to her.

Mrs Palin's abrupt announcement on Friday rattled the Republican Party but left open the possibility of a presidential run. She and her staff are keeping quiet on her future plans. Mrs Palin's spokesman, David Murrow, said the governor did not say anything to him about this being her "political finale." "She's looking forward to serving the public outside the governor's chair," he said. And Pam Pryor, a spokeswoman for Mrs Palin's political action committee, said the group continues to accept donations on its website, which saw an increase in contributions on Friday afternoon. The announcement caught even current and former advisers of Mrs Palin by surprise.

Former members of the John McCain campaign team, now dispersed across the country, traded perplexed e-mails and phone calls. In a hastily arranged news conference at her home in suburban Wasilla, Mrs Palin said had decided against running for re-election as Alaska's governor, and believed it was best to leave office even though she had two years left to her term. Lt Gov Sean Parnell will take her place.

"Many just accept that lame duck status, and they hit that road," Mrs Palin said. "They draw a paycheck. They kind of milk it. And I'm not going to put Alaskans through that." The 2008 vice presidential nominee has proven formidable among the party's base. But the last week brought a highly critical piece in Vanity Fair magazine, with unnamed campaign aides questioning if Palin was ever really prepared for the presidency. * AP