Sarah Palin will impact the 2012 race whether or not she runs. (Steven Senne/AP )

“In my opinion any mandate coming from government is not a good thing,” Palin told reporters outside Bunker Hill in Massachusetts, the latest stop on her whirlwind bus tour up the east coast that began on Sunday.

“[E]ven on a state level and even a local level, mandates coming from a governing body, it's tough for a lot of us independent Americans to accept, because we have great faith in the private sectors and our own families, and our own businessmen and women making decisions for ourselves.”

Twisting the political knife in a bit further Palin said that appealing to the tea party will be a “big challenge” for Romney.

Romney’s campaign did not respond to an email seeking a response to Palin’s comments.

Palin’s jab is a clear sign that even if she chooses not to run for president, she will almost certainly be a major factor in the race. That’s not great news for the frontrunners since Palin delights in being a thorn in the side of the establishment.

In fact, the argument can be made that Palin’s hits on the 2012 presidential candidates could have more influence if she is out of the race rather than in it.

If she was an announced candidate, Palin would become just another contender. Her attacks would be taken in that context. She would hardly be the only one in that group going after “Romneycare.” By not running, Palin can position herself as a neutral arbiter representing the conservative, tea party wing of the GOP.

And, her bus tour has proven that anything and everything Palin does will be covered and analyzed to death, no matter how often she snubs the press and likely no matter whether she is a formally declared candidate or not.

As for her decision to bring her bus tour to New Hampshire on the same day and in the same state that Romney was launching his campaign, Palin called it a coincidence. (She also invited local Republicans to a clambake tonight.)

“I don't believe that Gov. Romney is offended at all,” Palin said.