It's no secret that Mitt Romney's presidential primary campaign has put far more emphasis on early primary states like New Hampshire and Nevada, before Iowa. After skipping a major Iowa evangelical event last month and planning on not attending a candidate forum in the state this weekend, many Iowa Republicans have expressed a feeling of discontent towards the former Massachusetts governor now candidate for president. In an interview with the Huffington Post Wednesday, Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad expressed what these frustrations mean for Romney's chances of catching the key early primary state:
"'I think he's going to have to put a real effort in here or he's going to be embarrassed,' Branstad said in a phone interview. 'He's trying to downplay it and keep the expectations down. But if he comes in fifth or sixth here I think it really damages his campaign nationally. Iowa voters are spoiled by attention, and if you have a candidate who does not take them seriously, I think they'll punish him.'"
Real Clear Politics currently has Romney averaging 18 percent in Iowa polls, behind only Herman Cain. The former Massachusetts governor is performing better in national polls, averaging at 22 percent.
While speaking with POLITICO, Branstad warned Romney that a poor performance in Iowa could effect his national image leading to problems down the road.
"I know Romney is putting his focus in New Hampshire, but if he gets clobbered here — if he comes in not in the top three but say fourth or fifth — I think that really damages his campaign on the national [level]," Branstad said at a POLITICO sponserd energy forum Wednesday.
The words of the five term governor carry weight in Iowa Republican circles. Branstad told POLITICO that the regional focus of Romney's campaign will come back to haunt him, and that the candidate's advisors could learn a thing or two from 2008 candidates:
"I think that the advisers in Boston don't get it, they're too far away from the reality,' said the governor, his voice rising. 'They have that East Coast mentality. That was the same deal with Rudy Giuliani. At this point four years ago, he was the frontrunner...by the time it got to Florida he was out of it.'"
Branstad may have a short memory himself, as HuffPo notes, Romney went all out spending $10million in Iowa in 2008 only to finish second to Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. To make matters increasingly tense between Romney and Barnstad personally, the presidential candidate is reportedly skipping the Iowa governor's birthday party this Thursday. Romney had campaigned for Branstad during his 2010 reelection campaign.
However The Hill notes that the Romney campaign is starting to realize that their focus on New Hampshire and Nevada cannot come at the price of an embarrassment in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor's campaign announced Monday that Romney would head to the Hawkeye State next Wednesday for campaign events.