(CNN) – Iowa's Republican governor-elect has a message to fellow party members who may want to make a bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination: Spend time in my state.
Gov.-elect Terry Branstad, who easily defeated Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in last month's elections, also warned potential White House hopefuls not to skip next summer's presidential straw poll.
"Not participating is certainly not a very good strategy. So I would certainly come and participate," Branstad told WHO-TV in Des Moines.
Branstad, who served four terms as Iowa's governor in the 1980s and 1990s, added that it's doubtful that he would support any candidate who didn't take part in the straw poll, which is held in Ames the summer before the Iowa caucuses. The next straw poll, which raises tens of thousands of dollars for the state party, is scheduled to be held next August.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won the 2007 straw poll, but a strong second place finish by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee gave his campaign a major boost. Both Sen. John McCain of Arizona and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani skipped the event and neither campaigned heavily in Iowa leading up to the state's January 2008 caucuses. Huckabee ended up winning that contest, but McCain of course captured the GOP presidential nomination.
Branstad said candidates could take a page from his successful elections for governor: "I think I've demonstrated how you can win elections in Iowa and you do it by going to all 99 counties and meeting with a lot of people and articulate a vision and plan for where you want to lead the state, or in this case, the country."
Branstand said at this point he's not sure if he'll endorse a candidate before the next caucuses, which will be held in early February 2012.
Branstand defeated Bob Vander Plaats, a conservative favorite in this year's Iowa GOP gubernatorial primary. Branstad was endorsed by Romney and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who are both considering bids for the White House. Huckabee endorsed Vander Plaats, who captured 41 percent of the primary vote against Branstad. Vander Plaats is now the head of a group that includes the Iowa Family Policy Center, Marriage Matters, and their political action committee, and hopes to have an influential role in the caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary season.
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