Again, these are opportunities Palin has had, and qualities she’s had to build, in the course of her short candidacy. And it’s ultimately misleading to weave the two narratives—of 1) Palin’s increasing independence from the McCain campaign, and 2) her speculative political future—together. That’s not to say that both narratives don’t deserve discussion. But this type of theorization—she’s disagreeing with McCain… cranes neck, looks ahead… she’s ready to go it alone!—can easily snowball.

It also, unfortunately, jives with the general press meme that The Election Is (All But) Over, with polls suggesting that Palin won’t, in fact, make it to Washington. This has, perhaps more than other things, enabled accounts of the tension between McCain and Palin to simultaneously dabble in projections of the fabled Next Step for Palin.

Palin may have a bright future in politics. Or her reputation may be ineradicably damaged by this year’s vice presidential run. Or, hell, maybe she will in fact seek out television, as Mike Huckabee, to variable effect, has done. Conjecture stories will abound. But it’s melodramatic, and a bit hasty, to base these narrative projections on the Republican ticket’s beleaguered actions on the campaign trail in the last week before an election. In other words, focus.

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Jane Kim is a writer in New York.