Palin sounds like candidate in return to New Hampshire

SEABROOK, New Hampshire (Reuters) – Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin swept into New Hampshire on Thursday sounding like a candidate, but stayed mum on her plans for the 2012 presidential election and beyond.

The 2008 vice presidential candidate and conservative star took her “One Nation” bus north from Boston to the seaside town of Seabrook, New Hampshire.

It was the first visit to the key early primary state since Palin’s failed run for the White House with John McCain.

“I want people to focus on my record,” Palin told reporters outside the small blue house where a few dozen invited guests had gathered for a New England-style clambake.

She then ticked off a list of jobs she has held, from the early days in Wasilla, Alaska, adding, “It’s not just about those six weeks on the vice presidential trail.”

Palin left her options open about jumping into the presidential race. She said she hopes to make an impact with her message but “not necessarily as a candidate.”

The bus tour, which has sparked a media frenzy since kicking off in Washington on Sunday, might take a brief hiatus after New Hampshire. But Palin suggested she and her family would soon “see other sites and go west.”

Earlier Palin, dressed in pink t-shirt and grey skirt, toured the Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative in Seabrook, where she discussed fisheries policy with workers who had hauled in a large amount of lobster, pollock and cod.

“I love your industry!” exclaimed Palin, whose husband Todd has at times worked as a commercial fisherman.

She tied her visit to one of her major themes: excess government regulation.

“Politics can not play a part in the fisheries industry,” said Palin, rapping “overly cautious environmental concerns” for strangling the enterprise.

That resounded with tenth-generation fisherman Charles Eastman, 49, of Stratham, New Hampshire.

“Since 1996 the government has destroyed the fishing industry,” said Eastman, who said he admires Palin for “standing up for the little man.”

Although local Republican leaders have been mostly kept in the dark about Palin’s plans during her bus tour, some, including former New Hampshire governor John Sununu, were spotted at the clambake.

Sununu earlier was at Republican front-runner Mitt Romney’s campaign launch, held just a few miles away, and has said he is leaning toward backing Romney in the primary.

Before joining her guests Palin chatted easily and at length with local residents, many of whom were enthusiastic.

“I like the fact that she speaks her mind politically. She’s a woman in a man’s world and she motivates people to get out and vote, whether they like her or not,” said Amy D’Uva, 50, an educational consultant from Seabrook.

Palin also spoke briefly to college student Brett Chamberlin, 20, of Durham, who held up a sign decrying Palin as an “Idiot Queen,” saying she understood his right as an American to express his views.

“Many of Palin’s policies are ludicrous. She’s a panderer to the media and obviously enjoys the spotlight,” said Chamberlin.