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Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin hugs Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell

hide captionAlaska Gov. Sarah Palin hugs Alaska Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell after she announced she would be stepping down as Governor in Wasilla, Alaska on Friday July 3, 2009. The former Republican vice presidential candidate made the surprise announcement, saying she would step down July 26 but didn't announce her plans.

Robert DeBerry/AP Photo/The Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman/ Anchorage Daily News

Maybe Sarah Palin finally realized that the people who run the Republican party just aren't that into her.

Maybe the soon-to-be-former governor of Alaska is still delusional enough to think she can convince the party bosses that she's a contender for the GOP's 2012 presidential nomination.

Maybe the 2008 Republican nominee for vice president is going to take them all on with a gonzo-style populist run against not just President Obama but the entire political establishment. And her talk about supporting change agents inside the Republican party and "outside it" suggests that she might actually be open to an independent or third-party bid.

Then again, maybe, just maybe, Palin was not thinking about much of anything Friday, when she steered off what certainly looks like the political equivalent of a cliff.

Whatever was going through the governor's head, her decision to quit as governor of Alaska — possibly, although she's not saying, in response to a Vanity Fair article that exposed the extent to which the people who ran John McCain's 2008 president race despised her — has moved the woman from Wasilla to a new stage of what was already a long strange trip down the campaign trail.

Wherever she is now headed, will have plenty of time to plan things after July 26, when she will formally resign and "return to private life."

Technically, the return-to-private-life line could suggest more time will be spent at the coffee shop in Wasilla — or raising her infant child and infant grandkid.

But something about Palin's cryptic exit announcement — which came with almost no detail at a press conference outside her lakeside home — suggests that we have not heard the last of her.

"We know we can effect positive change outside government at this moment in time on another scale and actually make a difference for our priorities," said Palin, at a press conference where she criticized those who take "the quitters way out" and then announced she was quitting.

(The video is below.)

Savvy viewers will note the several times in her "farewell" address where Palin mentioned "campaigning," as well as the spin she took through the standard list of conservative talking points.

It ought not be forgotten that Palin has been polling near the top of GOP lists, so she still has quite a following among the party's base voters — who are relatively immune to bad craziness. And the free time she has just bought herself will allow her to spend even more time in "lower 48" states like New Hampshire and Iowa.

Best bet: Palin will continue campaigning.

And the soap opera that her turn on the political stage has become will grow ever more bizarre.

After all, Palin has not quite outdone another of GOP governors whose name was once on the list of potential presidential contenders, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford.

Not yet, at least.

Chances are that, over the next few weeks, when she is finally forced to answer questions about her plans for the future, Palin will in fact, eclipse Sanford.

Unlike the South Carolinian, who gives every indication of being torn between two lovers, Palin is not conflicted. She is absolutely, head-over-heels in love... with herself.

Whatever her course of her campaigning, there is every reason to believe that Sarah Palin will keep one promise that she made Friday.

She said did not intend to do anything that "would just be another dose of 'politics as usual.'"

Fair enough, governor, it'll be politics as unusual from here on out.

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