(CNN) - Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad, predicted Rick Santorum would fall in the top three in his state's lead-off caucuses Tuesday.
Appearing Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union," Branstad said he also expects Mitt Romney and Ron Paul to finish in the top tier, a forecast that mirrors recent polling in the Hawkeye State.
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"Iowa caucuses have always winnowed the field to about three candidates, so it's all about beating expectations here," he told CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley. "I predicted all along that Santorum would be better than people expect."
A Des Moines Register Poll released Saturday, conducted between Tuesday and Friday, showed Santorum, the former Pennsylvania senator, in third place behind former Massachusetts Gov. Romney and Rep. Paul of Texas. But when the results from Thursday and Friday were considered independently, Santorum rose to second place, behind Romney and ahead of Paul.
Santorum has invested his time on the ground in the state and was the first candidate this cycle to visit each of the state's 99 counties.
Discussing Paul, who is making his third bid for the White House, Branstad said his platform is responsible for his strong polling in the state.
"Ron Paul, to his credit, has put a lot of time, a lot of effort, a lot of focus in, and his focus on that he's voted against all these deficits. He's been against all this manipulation of the currency, I think has resonated with Iowa voters, and that's the number one issue," he said.
But he said that some caucus attendees "also have some concerns about his position on foreign policy and as a result, as they sort it out, I think he's going to get a significant showing here but even if he wins Iowa, I think it's really going to be a question of who is in the top three."
Though he included neither Texas Gov. Rick Perry nor former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in his top three, Branstad says they "could do better than some expect."
Both have lost ground in the state recently while Gingrich has faced a barrage of attacks ads.
When asked who else would find success in the state, he served up some criticism for one candidate who did not campaign in the first-in-the-nation caucus state.
"Well I can tell you who's not going to be, and that is Jon Huntsman. He messed up big time, he skipped Iowa," Branstad said. "And the result is he's an asterisk and he's never going to get beyond that."
Although Branstad, the state's five-term governor, frequently speaks publicly about the race, he has not endorsed a candidate.
Neither has high profile Iowa Rep. Steve King. But during an appearance on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday, King left the door open to a possible endorsement.
"If that instant comes that I'm convinced that one will do a significant better job than another, I won't hesitate, I'll step in," King said. "But it has to be a conviction on my part. I don't think I'd be doing justice to this privilege that I have if it were not a conviction."
But whoever wins in Iowa, Branstad said he will be focused on defeating President Barack Obama, who gained traction in the 2008 Democratic field in part through an Iowa caucus victory.
"I'll tell you my goal as governor: unite the Republican Party, attract the independents, and defeat Obama," Branstad said. "We launched him, we want to sink him."
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Watch State of the Union with Candy Crowley Sundays at 9am ET. For the latest from State of the Union click here.
King is worthless, but I do expect him to weigh in after the domestic terrorist meet in Tampa, and select the candidate who has already been selected by the Kochs and Rove, Mittens.
It is acceptable to be a dreamer, but it is not acceptable to be a delusional governor.
His goal as Iowa's governor is to defeat Barack Obama?That sounds a lot like what what Mitch McConnell , Senate Minority Leader said.These people are haters, who are fixated on destroying the president above anything else.
Only one prediction republicans know that Obama will win 2012
Past 2 years Republicans did a good job destroying Obama’s image unfortunately GOP primary didn’t go the way GOP anticipated.
Here's a prediction you can count on! If Obama and Liberal Democrats are allowed to remain in power, they will SPEND us into oblivion and a DISUNITED STATES will prevail.
Please stop with the 1 vs 99 percent garbage too. Middle class Americans with half a brain know that a healthy economy is the key to personal and economic prosperity. Out-of-control Government Spending has been the real culprit to our failing economy and high unemployment! Demonizing anyone that has worked and sacrificed their entire life to build wealth is NOTHING more than playing the human weakness of selfishness among those expecting more from Nanny Government on the backs of others. Nothing more!
Ron Paul 2012, baby!
I'm listening to this fool now – he can't even come up with good answers as to which candidate should be nominated – he picked the top 3 and then he added Perry and then turn around and says Huntsman is the ONLY one not being considered. He's all over the place. Then he furthers his ignorance by stating that President Obama is NOT going to win IA. And the reasons he stated was because the economy is NOT improving because of Obama. But yet, when the economy was doing badly – President Obama was blamed for it!!! President Obama is damned if he does and damned if he doesn’t!!
And Republicans – in a whole – are FLIP-FLOP liars. They have a combat of frontrunners and they are all beating each other up trying to prove which one LIES better than the other; what a mess!! And you have the Tea Party out there agreeing with all of them!!!
WOW! Mr. Branstad must be very clever to forecast this!
Anybody with even a little brain has known that Romney would win and Paul would be no.2.
Whatever happens to Santorum nobody really cares. Except maybe some of the bible-bangers.
Keith, Keith, Keith. You realize that it was the republican party that spent us to the edge of a near depression, don't you? ($12 trillion of our national debt seems to be a lot ) Don't give us that garbage that any republican gives a rat's behind about working Americans. Republicans are for big money and it is truly a shame that you foreign owned media, Fox, viewers are so easily mislead.
Republicans always play to the greedy selfish base. GOP is the party of, I got mine, forget you. Even alleged self made millionaires let you believe they never went to a public school, used a national park, used public roads, used the post office, relied on the military to keep us safe, called a policeman, needed a nurse, learned from a teacher, needed safety standards, wanted cars that did not have exploding gas tanks, etc. Never mind, they just don't get it.
Sinking Obama is a good thing, but if you sink him with someone who will continue down the path he's paved, then why bother sinking him? After all, Obama signed the NDAA. Ron Paul is the only person in this race with a chance that will do anything that benefits the American people. We cannot let this opportunity slip past us. A vote for Ron Paul is a vote for the United States of America to remain as the worlds beacon of light.
Keith in Austin- Good post! You have it exactly right. The USA cannot survive 4 more years of Obama and the Liberal/Progressive/Marxiast party.
It's bad enough we have Lawyers doing our accounting in Congress, but to put a doctor in the mix and ask him to know both economics and law is preposterous. Paul is a dangerous man. He is an isolationist and if given his way would take away what makes us a "United" states and and have us be just a border of independent little governments. At least when the Soviet Union dissolved, Russia was a major country. Paul will leave us DC.
The Stock Market was flat for 2011. That means there was no progress for the economy. Things will probably not change until we get a new President. Those are the facts, like it or not.
In your view, prediction = Advertising.
In my view, prediction, which seems, PRE-DICTIONARY. It is not sorted out yet for labelling.
...such thing, keep flying on air,...that never touch the ground.
Keith, you just can't admit your GOBP deathcult is responsible for most of the deficit, can you? Why is your party so fiscally irresponsible?
President Obama has already won all 50 states ask god.
Ron Paul makes sense.I noticed MSM doesnt give him face or voice time,but after tuesday we shall see,we shall see.the other GOP runners all sound the same.The Emporer wears no clothes.DANIEL 4;17
hopefully he can stop the liberals.DANIEL4;17