WASHINGTON — One of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's potential presidential rivals said Sunday that her abrupt resignation won't help her dodge scrutiny. President George W. Bush's chief political adviser said her strategy is, at best, unclear.
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee said Palin's announcement that she would not seek a second term — and leave office before finishing her first — simply doesn't make sense in a conventional political setting. Karl Rove, a longtime Bush counselor, said Palin has engaged in a "risky strategy."
Then again, the pair said, Palin has never been a conventional candidate and her stunning announcement on Friday is what they have come to expect from the Republicans' 2008 vice presidential candidate.
"She marches to the beat of her own drum, and it's going to be very interesting to see how she pulls this off," Rove said.
Palin announced Friday she wouldn't seek re-election in 2010 and surprised fans and critics alike by saying she would leave office on July 26, more than a year before she would have finished her first term as governor.
During a sometimes rambling statement, she cited ongoing ethics complaints and the financial toll they were taking on the state and her personal finances. She also blamed the media for sensational attention and attacks on her family, although she didn't offer details.
Political observers struggled to make sense of the decision and its effect on a potential 2012 campaign for the White House. Even her rival during the last election, Vice President Joe Biden, seemed confused by the move.
"It maybe had a lot to do with what the state of their life was, and the state of their family, et cetera," Biden said. "So I'm not going to second-guess her."
Last year Sen. John McCain plucked Palin from near-obscurity to be his running mate. The folksy governor remains a potent figure in Republican politics, although her resignation could make a potential 2012 campaign even more dicey. If she chooses to run, she'll enter a race with questions about her strategy as well as her experience.
Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, whose state traditionally hosts the first nominating contest of the presidential campaign, called the move "astounding."
"I would think that if you want to run for president — and I'm not sure that's got anything to do with what she's doing — that the forum of a governorship would be a better forum than just being a private citizen," Grassley said. "I have no insight into why she did it."
Huckabee, who ran for president in 2008 and could try again, said he remains a Palin fan and insisted she continues to be a viable candidate. But she also should be prepared to explain the curious move.
"Well, it's a risky strategy, and nobody knows whether it's going to pay off or not," Huckabee said. "And even if she did get out, primarily because of a feeling of being chased, that's not going to stop if she continues in politics. The only way that stops is for her to completely exit the stage and the spotlight."
But part of her explanation for resigning — that she was dogged by critics who cost her state millions in legal fees — will be a liability for her if she seeks the White House, Huckabee said.
"Well, if that had been the case for me, I'd have quit about my first month, because I was a Republican governor in a state where 89 percent of my legislature were Democrats," Huckabee said. "Been there, done that."
If she's looking to be a national political figure, it's not going to get easier, Huckabee said.
Besides, Rove said, Palin will not be able to escape the media's attention.
"If she thinks somehow that she's going to be able to protect her family against the kind of things that she's suffered over the last couple of months, from David Letterman and others, and seek a role of leadership for effective change for our country, as she said in her speech, she's not going to be able to do it," Rove said.
Palin recently led a public spat with "Late Show" host Letterman over a joke he made about one of her daughters.
"It is not clear what her strategy here is by exiting the governorship 2 1/2 years through the term and putting herself on the national stage that she may not yet be prepared to operate in," Rove said.
"She did a great job during 63 days during the fall campaign of 2008 ... but now she's going to have hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of days between now and the 2012 election, and she's going to raise expectations about how well and how visible she's going to be early on in that struggle," he said.
Huckabee and Rove appeared on "FOX News Sunday." Biden appeared on ABC's "This Week" while Grassley appeared on CBS' "Face the Nation."