Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad will call on the Republican presidential candidates to pick up the pace of their campaigns in the first-in-the-nation caucus state, using his weekly news conference on Monday to fire a starter’s pistol on the 2012 race.
The governor’s appeal represents an effort to get that fight fully engaged, despite the overall sluggishness of the 2012 campaign – and growing questions about whether Iowa will be able to maintain its influence over the presidential nomination calendar.
“Branstad has stated repeatedly that Mike Huckabee had been the front-runner in his state, and this morning he will send a clear message to current and would-be 2012 candidates: Iowa is a full-spectrum state, and everyone — including evangelicals — wants someone who will articulate a message of job creation and slashing the federal debt,” Branstad communications director Tim Albrecht told POLITICO. “The person who best exhibits those leadership qualities will do well in Iowa, and they should build a campaign there to prove it.”
Mitt Romney, who lost Iowa to Mike Huckabee after vigorously campaigning in the state in 2008, hasn’t paid the state much attention this year. Jon Huntsman is admittedly in the early stages — he hasn’t launched an exploratory committee yet — but all signs indicate that he’s not planning to campaign in Iowa much (or at all), either.
That’s not to say Iowans are being ignored. Tim Pawlenty, Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann, and Ron Paul have all visited the state, as has Newt Gingrich, who is set to begin a 17-city whirlwind tour of Iowa today.