Iowa's Republican governor sent a warning to
on Wednesday: Don't write off the Hawkeye State.
, a former four-term governor who returned to office this year, said at a forum hosted by Politico that the
front-runner is "making a big mistake" by favoring other states to his.
"I mean, Romney is dropping in the polls and I think he thinks that he wants to keep down expectations, you know. Well, his expectations may get really bad if he doesn't get a little more serious," Branstad said,
"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]."
Romney has not visited Iowa, the leadoff caucus state, since last week. It was just his second trip there in three months, his fourth since becoming an official candidate.
He has skipped several high-profile candidate gatherings there, and will do so again at a Thanksgiving forum planned for Saturday. He did attend the Iowa State Fair in August, but did not participate in the
, which he had won four years earlier.
The notion that Romney is writing off the state is fueled further by a
this week that Romney told GOP donors he does not expect to win the Jan. 3 caucuses.
According to that report, "Romney predicted a tea party favorite would win Iowa and that he would take New Hampshire, according to interviews with six people in the audience. Romney told the crowd he would seal the nomination by then winning Florida's Republican contest."
A Bloomberg poll released Tuesday showed Romney just two points behind
in the state. At 18%, he's far ahead of a candidate like Rick Santorum, who has now visited all of the state's 99 counties.
Romney finished second in the 2008 Iowa caucuses to
, the eventual nominee, finished fourth.
Branstad said that Romney risked making the same mistake as
, who had been the national front-runner in that race.
"At this point four years ago, he was the front-runner ... by the time it got to Florida, he was out of it," Branstad said, according to Politico.