"She could be a commentator," Nelson said. "Other things I'll be looking for: What is the focus of her book? Does she get involved with some foundation? Does she try to do something that puts some thought leadership into some issues? Right now she's defined as a personality -- not a lot of people would ascribe issues to her other than personality."
Palin said she was resigning in part to save Alaskans the cost of her many legal battles over ethics complaints that have reportedly run up $500 million in legal fees, which spawned a legal aid fund that led to yet another ethics complaint.
In October, a legislative panel found said Palin had abused her powers as governor by trying to get her ex-brother-in-law fired from the state patrol.
Media reviews of the former governor have also been largely unfavorable. In one particularly devastating analysis, Vanity Fair's Todd Purdum declared Palin the "sexiest and riskiest brand in the Republican Party." The article went to call her 2008 vice presidential run "disastrous" and her family a "rogues gallery" that makes "Billy Carter, Donald Nixon, and Roger Clinton seem like avatars of circumspection."
Reviews like that could actually help, some Republicans say.
"Palin can use the bias against the media in the conservative community in her favor," the GOP's Forti said. "She can claim she gets a bad rap in the media and that echoes. It's been a long time since the Republicans have had a plain-talking charismatic candidate like Palin. It's very easy to see why people like her. Her obstacle now is to take that charisma and prove that a three-quarters-term governor from Alaska is qualified to be president of the United States."
By leaving office, Palin steps down from a position that could subject her to continued public pillorying by Democrats. Just today in The Washington Post, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and former presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., assail Palin's energy policies in an op-ed titled "What Palin Got Wrong About Energy Policy."
"Maybe she's just tired of all the drama and simply wants to stop the madness surrounding her," Republican operative Mark McKinnon, who coached Palin during the campaign, recently wrote in the blog The Daily Beast.
Amid all of the speculation and the negative turn in the public's perception of her, the real truth surrounding her final weekend as governor is that Palin herself is the only person who truly knows what's in store for her future.
"Maybe she wants to focus on her family. Maybe she may wants to make a lot of money giving speeches. Maybe she wants to host her own TV show. Maybe she wants to start a Barry Goldwater-like movement. And maybe she wants to run for President in 2012. Or, maybe she's got a boyfriend in Argentina," McKinnon quipped. "Only one thing is for sure when it comes to Palin: There is more to come. Probably much more."
On Sunday night, Palin tweeted, "Last state twitter. Thank you Alaska! I love you. God bless Alaska. God bless the U.S.A."
ABC's Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.