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Iowa governor says Romney, Cain should be spending more time in the state

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain would benefit from spending more time in the Hawkeye State as the Jan. 3 Iowa Caucuses approach, Gov. Terry Branstad says, adding that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman has become “an asterisk” because he’s opted to skip the state entirely.

Image has not been found. URL: http://media.iowaindependent.com/Branstad-at-Presser-80-80-150x150.jpgTerry Branstad (Photo: Tyler Kingkade/The Iowa Independent)

“I think it would be in their interest certainly to spend the time and effort here,” said Branstad, a five-term Republican governor. “The one that is not going to do well is Huntsman. He has virtually written off Iowa and he is an asterisk, and I told him basically he’s making a huge mistake.”

Romney and Cain have been largely absent from the state, each appearing at just a handful of events in the state. Yet they are leading in many national polls and among Iowa voters.

But Branstad said “it’s still very much a wide-open race,” and Iowans want the chance to meet candidates and them questions.

“If you look at what’s happened historically, oftentimes it’s the candidates that put in a strong push in the last weeks prior to the caucuses that have done well,” he said. “I encourage them to spend the time and put in the effort here, and I think it could be a real benefit to any of the candidates that put the effort in.”

Branstad noted former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich has surged in the polls after many wrote him off early in the campaign as he struggled with staff issues, questions about his spending habits and an apparent lack of focus on Iowa.

“Considering that a lot of people left him for dead at the beginning of the campaign, I guess you might say that,” he said when asked if Gingrich has new life. “I would also point out John McCain last time was in really dire straits and came back.”

Political observers should be careful about prematurely declaring a candidate’s campaign over before the caucuses, Branstad said, because “a lot can still happen between then and now.”

“We’ve seen a lot of candidates go up and down from the time that this thing started until now and I suspect the drama will continue,” he said.

As for the roller coaster ride that many candidates have experienced in the polls, which many have attributed to the party’s search for a candidate other than Romney, Branstad said it’s really about finding the best candidate to beat President Obama.

“Republicans are searching for the perfect candidate, and a lot of people have been up and down in this process, but I think that people are recognizing that we cannot afford to continue to go the direction we are,” Branstad said.

Although Steve Grubbs, Cain’s Iowa chairman, tweeted Sunday that the Atlanta businessman would be returning to the Hawkeye State this week, the campaign has yet to make a formal announcement of the events.

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