Palin waves to supporters after endorsing South Carolina gubernatorial candidate Nikki Haley. (Mary Ann Chastain/AP)

Confession: I’ve missed Sarah Palin.

Since October, when Palin announced she wouldn’t run for president, she’s been fairly low-key. She retreated from Twitter and seldom posted to Facebook. But as the 2012 election cycle revs up, so has Palin.

Like her or not, Palin speaks her mind via social media, Fox News and conservative magazines. Palin doesn’t stick with soundbites or scripts. No handlers handle the Mama Grizzly.

Palin has been busy in the last 24 hours. She told Fox News’s Sean Hannity on Tuesday night that if she was a South Carolinian, she would vote for Newt Gingrich. It wasn’t a straight endorsement, she stressed, but Palin simply believes the primary should be hard-fought and not easily handed to Mitt Romney on a silver platter.

“Iron sharpens iron, steel sharpens steel,” Palin said.

Earlier that day, Palin took to Twitter, not only criticizing a Newsweek cover about Obama’s critics but also taking a personal shot at the reporter, Andrew Sullivan. There’s bad blood between Palin and Sullivan, who once questioned whether Palin’s youngest son, who has down syndrome, is her biological child.

Tweeting to Newsweek, Palin wrote: “Know what’s truly ‘dumb’? Giving a cover story to the TrigTruther conspiracy kook writer who thinks I didn’t give birth to my son.”

Oh, Sarah.

Who doesn’t admire Palin for her brash outspokenness even if you agree or disagree? The former Alaska governor simply doesn’t possess a filter. If she doesn’t like something, she certainly shares her opinion—even if she does occasionally use curious grammar. Hem-hawing would not be a word to describe the former vice-presidential candidate.

And I like that.

Sure, critics cry that Palin says many things for sheer attention. She’s not alone there. Regardless of their political leanings, politicos— and their egos—have a never-ending love-hate relationship with media. Give me attention, leave me alone.

With Palin, no topic is off-limits. Earlier this month, Palin chimed in on an Oklahoma case about a teenaged mother who shot an intruder in a home invasion.

Last week Palin slammed Michelle Obama for what she thought was a condescending defense of the president’s record.

“Oh Lord. Oh Lord! Are we just numbskulls out here in the heartland of America?” Palin asked, after viewing a clip of the First Lady on Fox News. “Just a bunch of numbskulls who can’t read the unemployment numbers and see that 5 trillion dollars in new debt later under her husband, President Obama, five trillion dollars more, and we still have fewer jobs today than we had before he took over.”

Numbskulls: When was the last time Romney used that word?

Women especially admire Palin. They like that she would say a word like “numbskulls.” It’s the type of word that a soccer mom would use to describe her child’s teacher or even her husband.

Laura Merrill Harms, a mother of two children who lives in Taylor, Texas, loves it when Palin speaks her mind.

“Do I admire her outspokenness?” Harms said when I asked her about Palin. “Do you even have to ask? Yes, I do. She a strong person and it shows, which I like.”

If Gingrich upsets Romney in the South Carolina primary, Palin —and her husband Todd who has officially endorsed Gingrich—could get some credit. Palin wouldn’t be without merit. In 2010, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley was tanking in the polls. After Palin’s endorsement, Haley skyrocketed and won the seat.

With Palin’s mention of Gingrich Tuesday night, Palin supporters went into overdrive. One link on Palin’s Facebook page pointed to blog post in which Gingrich sung her praises in a December tele-town hall hosted by Ralph Reed’s Faith and Freedom Coalition.

Gingrich said he would consider Palin as a veep pick, but threw out another jewel. “There are also some very important Cabinet positions that she could fill very, very well,” Gingrich said. “I can’t imagine anybody who would do a better job of driving us to an energy solution than Gov. Palin, for example.”

Even if Gingrich loses South Carolina, Romney shouldn’t ignore Palin, the original darling of the Tea Party movement. Romney will need her to activate her base—and yes, she has one, including a bigger social media following than he does.

With Michele Bachmann regrouping from her failed presidential run, Palin, the original Mama Grizzly, is once again roaring as the lone GOP female voice.