Romney calls Palin 'powerful force' within GOP; 'attractive, too'

In a late night Wednesday appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney had some words of praise for potential 2012 rival Sarah Palin before taking a couple of veiled shots at the former Alaska governor. 

Romney, who joked that it's a sure sign he's running in 2012 "if you ever see me sign up for a gig on Fox News," called Palin a "remarkable, energetic, powerful figure in my party … attractive too."

He then took a shot at Palin's decision to resign from the governor's office in Alaska before the end of her term.

"It's hard to imagine a circumstance where I would quit [the governorship in Massachusetts]. I loved it," he told Leno. "But she had her reasons." 

Romney also praised former President George H.W. Bush and wife Barbara Bush, calling them "remarkable people." In a recent interview with CNN's Larry King, both praised Romney, while the former first lady suggested Palin should stay in Alaska.

While most observers fully expect Romney to launch another bid for the presidency in 2012, he has been less visible in some of the early presidential states over the past few weeks than his potential rivals. 

Palin was in Iowa last week for a stop on her new book tour, while former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee have both visited the state within the past month. Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), who has made a handful of trips to Iowa already this year, on Monday made his seventh trip to New Hampshire.