Iowa Governor Terry Branstad and Lt. Governor Kim Reynolds speak to members of the press.Iowa Governor Terry Branstad in his press conference this morning responded to a guest column in The Des Moines Register from Fergus Cullen, the former Chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party.  He said that Cullen was out of touch and doubted that he’d ever even been to our state.

“Mr. Cullen could not be more wrong about Iowa,” Governor Branstad said, “I think that as candidates campaign here, they will see a vibrant, growing Republican Party of Iowa. It is a wide open race, and we will welcome all candidates who participate here.”

He said that “Iowa is a full spectrum state.” He cited former Governor Mike Huckabee’s announcement on Saturday not to run creates a great opportunity for other candidates (but wouldn’t speculate on who would benefit the most) and believes that the 2012 Iowa Caucus will be the “most wide open, competitive race we’ve seen.”

He said that Iowans would be looking for someone who can articulate a message about reducing the federal debt and job creation.  I would add that we are also concerned about social issues, but he’s right those are not the issues that will lead in 2012.  A candidate who is squishy on those issues, however, will likely not play well here.  Branstad’s own election though is proof that the strongest social conservative in the race isn’t the one who will always win.  Though moderate Republicans need to take note that he also favors a marriage amendment and is prolife.  We’re looking for candidates who can walk and chew gum at the same time.

Branstad said he has maintained an open door policy for all of the candidates, and has met with a number of them already.  He also believes that it isn’t too late for candidates to jump in and even participate in the Iowa Straw Poll.  He was asked about the effectiveness of the straw poll since the 2008 GOP nominee, Arizona Senator John McCain, missed.  Branstad replied, “He wasn’t elected President.”  He said that McCain made a mistake not participating.  He also noted that McCain’s campaign was unusual due to the ups and downs he took with funding so his campaign shouldn’t be looked at as a model.

Update: Additional thoughts located here.

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