Palin steps on Romney announcement

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) took a direct shot at Mitt Romney's presidential campaign on the same day Romney made his bid official, and in his own backyard.

Less than an hour before Romney was set to officially announce his presidential bid, Palin criticized him for signing Massachusetts's healthcare plan, according to reports.

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"In my opinion, any mandate coming from government is not a good thing, so obviously ... there will be more the explanation coming from former Governor Romney on his support for government mandates," Palin said, according to NBC News.

Palin made her remarks in Romney's home state of Massachusetts, where she stopped on a leg of her bus tour throughout the Northeast. She is expected to make the short trip up to New Hampshire Thursday evening, her first since 2008, when she was the GOP's vice presidential nominee.

Romney faced criticism from Palin for the healthcare plan he supported as governor, a plan which is now regarded as a potential Achilles' Heel for his presidential ambitions. Conservatives have complained about the similarities between the Massachusetts plan and President Obama's national healthcare reform law. Romney sought to minimize criticism with a speech in Michigan last month, where he said he was "proud" of his efforts as governor, but pledged to undo Obama's law.

The Granite State is a key battleground in the path to the Republican nomination, and is particularly central to Romney's map to the nomination. Palin's sharp rhetoric toward Romney sends a clear signal that she's not willing to let the former Massachusetts governor have his day in the sun.

Tea Party activists might be less inclined to vote for Romney because of his healthcare law, Palin said, according to RealClearPolitics.

"That perhaps will be a big challenge for him because tea party activists are pretty strident, in a good way, in making sure that the candidate that many of the tea party patriots will support — the candidate has a record of living out the principles that tea party patriots do embrace," she said.

Palin said Romney made a "good argument" when he said that states have the right to pursue their own plans, but that it didn't make it alright for Massachusetts to require individuals to buy health insurance, the "individual mandate" that also plays a key role in Obama's plan.

Palin also took a swipe at Tim Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor who's also vying for GOP nomination, dinging him for calling on candidates to get into the race early.

"That is one thing that I disagree with Pawlenty on is he believing that it all needs to happen right now," she said. "I think he says that because that was his strategy, but I obviously don't follow anybody's strategy and don't just kind of go with the flow in the conventional way of doing things."

Palin's words could stoke further speculation that she is inclined to jump into the GOP presidential field, even though she has claimed her tour has nothing to do with a possible bid.  

The ex-Alaska governor has said repeatedly that she prefers to take her time while making her decision whether to run, but that the quality of the current crop of GOP candidates will play heavily into her decision.

"In my races over the last twenty years, I've usually been the first one to jump in," she said on Fox News in March. "But in this case, because it is so monumental and so affecting on a family, I probably would wait to see who is willing to put their name forward in the hat, in terms of serving this country."


—This post was updated at 1:01 p.m.