(CNN) – Iowa's Republican governor has a message for his party's presidential candidates: Come to Iowa more often.
"This is a state where you can effectively launch a campaign and it's not too late," Gov. Terry Branstad told reporters Monday morning. "We welcome the candidates to come to the Hawkeye state."
Branstad said the battle for the Iowa caucuses, which kick off the presidential primary and caucus calendar, are "wide open," adding, "it's a great opportunity."
Branstad added that former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee's announcement Saturday that he will not make another bid for the White House "is momentus."
Huckabee grabbed 35 percent of the vote in the last caucus. His win in Iowa ignited the campaign, but Huckabee eventually dropped out of the hunt for the GOP nomination, which was captured by Sen. John McCain.
Branstad says "those (votes) are now up for grabs."
The top Republican in Iowa also pushed back against arguments that Republicans in his state will only vote for candidates who appeal to hard-core social conservatives. In an op-ed this weekend in the Des Moines Register, former New Hampshire GOP Chairman Fergus Cullen called for the candidates to stay away from the caucuses, saying that the dominance of social conservatives in Iowa has marginalized the state, saying "competing in Iowa has become optional."
Branstad told reporters that Cullen is wrong, saying "the truth is Iowa is a full spectrum state." And he used himself as an example.
The four-term governor from 1983 to 1999 ran for a fifth term last year, beating a more conservative candidate, Christian activist Bob Vander Plaats, in the GOP primary. Branstad went on to defeat the incumbent Democratic governor by ten points in the general election.
The state has seen a lot of presidential traffic this year. Newt Gingrich Monday kicks off a 17 city-and-state tour through Iowa. It's his first big campaign swing since formally announcing his bid last week.
Mitt Romney is coming to Iowa on May 27. It's the first visit to Iowa this cycle for the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 GOP White House hopeful. The day before Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota returns to Iowa. And this week another Republican about to jump into the race, former Godfather's Pizza CEO and radio talk show host Herman Cain, speaks to a GOP dinner in Iowa. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who last week announced his candidacy for president, earlier this month was in Iowa to announce the formation of a exploratory committee. Two others who have taken steps towards running, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty and former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, have each made numerous visits to the state.
Even Donald Trump is scheduled to speak in Iowa next month. The billionaire businessman, real estate mogul and reality-TV star says he'll announce by June if he's running for the GOP nomination.
According to a count by CNN, from April 1 through Sunday, probable and possible 2012 Republican presidential candidates have made 40 campaign stops in New Hampshire, which holds the first primary in the road to the White House, 39 stops in Iowa, and 20 stops in South Carolina, which holds the first southern primary in the presidential primary and caucus calendar.
–Follow Paul Steinhauser on Twitter: @psteinhausercnn
This should be fun to watch. From the looks of the fascists republican field, Michelle Bachmann may actually win the Iowa caucus. That is every democrats dream come true.
It is so un-American that two or three states can have so much influence on our choice for President. All of our votes should be equal, but the field is seriously narrowed by the time the primaries get to most of us. Why should a few states have this much power over our government?
To translate for people who don't speak Iowan:
"Any SERIOUS, QUALIFIED and ELECTABLE Republicans please come and run in the primary ( because we don't like the people who have already announced their candidacies )!"
Very big difference between the Republicans and Democrats in Iowa. It's kind of interesting to watch. I think there is a broader spectrum, as Terry Branflake has pointed out. But – it's the social conservatives who do a better job of getting out the vote. They tend to have more hot buttons and get more fired up. On the Democratic side, however, it is the more liberal wing of the party that gets more fired up and produces a better showing.
That said, I will defend the caucus system and Iowa's right to be first in the nation. If you've never seen one in action – especially, if you've not gone to a caucus in a middle-class neighborhood with a mix of population, you cannot comment because you have no frame of reference. It is true democracy in action. They also make sure that every vote counts. And because Iowa is first, all by itself, and because it is relatively small, from a population perspective, they get a closer look at the candidates. They get a longer look. And Iowans are generally very politically savvy. Not too many Iowans go out and caucus for a candidate simply because of a couple of sound-bites on a TV commercial. They know where the candidates stand on a variety of issues. And you have voters from a broad spectrum – urban and rural, rich and poor.
Come and kowtow to the zealots who will determine the winner of the caucus.
I would like to see who shows up to this mess. It seems like that there are some who are willing to do most things to get the job. I don't think anyone in the field is really going to be able to get Obama out of office by defeating him in the election.
Why won't the media just ignore Iowa. They really don't matter, when it comes down to it, any more than any other state. Just ignore them, and make them realize the country doesn't care who votes first.
They don't call him Terry Brainsdead for anything! Lots of voter remorse in Iowa, as he promised jobs but has produced NOTHING!
Iowa conservatives have been calling for Gov. Christie.
They do not seem to like any of the current crop. Still.
Iowa isn't diverse or representative in any sense of the word. It is whiter, richer, and more rural than the rest of the country. And giving them a divine right to whittle down the candidates the rest of us vote for is unfair, undemocratic, and unethical.
You know, I'm closing in on 60 years old and I can't remember an election year in my lifetime with a more pathetic bunch of Republican candidates. If I were a Republican (which of course I'm not and actually made me shudder as I typed it) I would be seriously depressed right now. Wonder if there'll be a spike in anti-depressants being prescribed to Republicans? Wish there was some way to track that!
I'm from Iowa and Brandstand makes a good point, that the very social conservative vanderplatts lost to him. But now, the voters are starting to fight back against brandsand. He's been doing the typical republican cutting middle class programs while pushing huge tax breaks for commercial property. The small towns don't know where they'll make up the difference. Bet he couldn't get elected now.
He sounds like a salesman. He is literally "selling" IOWA as something that has relevance to the election of the President more than the 49 other states.
When will politicians stop playing this game. Iowa is not a bell weather.