NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE GOP RANK AND FILE…. It certainly seemed like the proverbial crash-and-burn moment. Sarah Palin abruptly announced she’s quitting after just two and a half years on the job, and did so in a bizarre, rambling speech. Prominent Republican voices, after they were done cringing, made clear they believed the Alaskan governor had done serious harm to her political future.

But Republican voters often see things differently.

Sarah Palin’s bombshell that she is resigning as Alaska governor actually has boosted her a bit among Republicans, a nationwide USA TODAY/Gallup Poll finds, though it also has dented her standing among Democrats and independents.

Two-thirds of Republicans want Palin, the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2008, to be “a major national political figure” in the future. Three-fourths of Democrats hope she won’t be.

Independents by 55%-34% would prefer she leave the national stage.

The findings underscore how polarized opinions of Palin were even before Friday’s surprise announcement. Seven in 10 polled say their views weren’t affected by her decision. Among those whose opinions shifted, Democrats by a 4-1 ratio and independents by 2-to-1 view her less favorably. Republicans are somewhat inclined to see her more favorably.

Among Republican voters, even now, 71% would be likely to vote for her for President of the United States.

Inexplicably quitting, for less-than-clear reasons, has managed to endear Palin to her party more.

Somewhere, Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee are probably smacking their foreheads, saying, “You’ve got to be kidding me.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.