A good case can be made that Sarah Palin is a younger, slightly smarter and significantly more outdoorsy Dick Cheney.

But Mitt Romney is taking the comparison of the former Alaska governor and the former Vice President a little too far.

Romney, who prefers that he be the 2012 Republican presidential nominee, is joking about how his potential rival is–like Cheney–armed and potentially dangerous.

Cheney, of course, was the first vice president since Aaron Burr to shoot a man. Indeed, the ex-veep is so intimidating that the victim apologized for letting his face get in the way of Cheney’s shot.

Like Cheney and Massachusetts Senator John Kerry, Palin is a monied politician who likes to connect with the commoners by dressing up in designer hunting clothes and wielding a gun for the cameras.

But, according to Romney, you don’t want to cross her.

Appearing on CBS’s "Late Show with David Letterman" Tuesday — with the intended purpose of promoting his much-anticipated (stop laughing!) new book: "No Apology: The Case for American Greatness" — Romney was like every other Republican pol drawn into the unavoidable Palin conversation.

For Romney, it was a bummer, as he is trying to promote himself as a credible, if not exactly exciting, Republican challenger to President Obama in 2012. Unfortunately, instead of talking himself up, the former Massachusetts governor found himself defending Palin.

Sort of.

Letterman, who has felt the Alaskan’s ire, asked Romney: "What about that Sarah Palin? She’s not ready to be President, is she?"

Romney could have said: "Are you kidding me? Cripes, she didn’t even finish her term as governor!"

Instead, he replied in pol-speak: "She’s terrific. She really is. She’s terrific. She’s got energy, passion. By the way, be careful what you say about her, by the way… She has a rifle, you know."

Letterman laughed.

And, in fairness to the humor-challenged Romney, it was a good line.

Unfortunately, the exchange obscured an even funnier one-liner by the former Massachusetts governor. In an exchange about health reform and the mounting cost of caring for sick Americans, Romney claimed that: "the problem is not the insurance companies."