ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Gov. Sarah Palin gained fame, and to some infamy, since she embarked on a vice presidential bid less than a year ago.
Her surprising departure from Alaska's top office is gaining her something else: questions over her motives and next big move.
She leaves office today with her political future clouded by ethics probes, mounting legal bills and dwindling popularity. A new Washington Post-ABC poll puts her favorability rating at 40 percent, with 53 percent giving her an unfavorable rating.
The Republican governor faces an array of queries about why she is quitting more than a year before her term ends and what she plans to do after she steps down.
Palin has said little about any major moves, but has hinted that she has a bigger role in mind. She is scheduled to speak Aug. 8 at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in California, and has said she plans to write a book, campaign for political candidates from coast to coast and build a right-of-center coalition.
Above all, Palin plans to continue speaking her mind on the social networking site Twitter, where she has 100,000 followers. But are they enough to launch a political movement?
"In the context of 305 million Americans, 100,000 is not a lot of followers," political scientist Jerry McBeath said. "I think she believes she has something to say that is of value to voters who share her views and believes that part of her calling is to continue" speaking out on Twitter, he said.
Unknown on the national stage until Republican John McCain tapped her as his running mate a year ago, Palin infused excitement into the Republican's presidential bid. But she also became the butt of jokes for her performance in TV interviews and criticism for news that the Republican Party had spent $150,000 or more on a designer wardrobe.
On Saturday, Palin attended the second of three picnics she is hosting as she leaves office.
She and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell served free hot dogs and hamburgers to people gathered to eat, listen to swing music and, mostly, gawk at Palin.
Former state Senate President Lyda Green, a onetime Palin ally who is now a leading critic, said Palin's tenure is likely to have a negative effect on the state.
"There are going be some things that the Legislature will have to go in and redo," she said, including the likely review of a ballyhooed deal to bring a natural gas pipeline to the state.
Green called Palin a narcissist whose actions "are very much toward herself and her goals and what she sees for her future."
But Palin's goals remain unclear. Spokeswoman Meghan Stapleton disputed the notion that Palin is running for president or has media deals lined up. "There is absolutely no plan," she said.