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CROWLEY: Joining me from his state capital to talk about the influence of Iowa, Republican Governor Terry Branstad.
Thank you so much for joining us here --
GOV. TERRY BRANSTAD (R), IOWA: You're welcome.
Great to be with you.
CROWLEY: -- in your beautiful building.
BRANSTAD: Thank you.
We're real proud of it.
CROWLEY: I imagine. It's gorgeous.
Listen, you've seen, I am sure, "The Des Moines Register" poll this morning -- Romney, Paul, Santorum.
Do you think that's how it's --
BRANSTAD: A wide open race. And, you know, I predicted all along that Santorum was going to do a lot better than the polls had showed previously. And the fact that he has been here a lot, gone to all 99 counties, I think that's helped him.
Romney has done a bus tour here lately and he's had bigger crowds, I think, than ever before. But it's a wide open race. People have been watching the debates and they're looking for the perfect candidate.
CROWLEY: Is that the key, because, you know, generally Iowans have the freedom to vote their heart?
CROWLEY: Like, boy, this guy is right with me.
Do they have that freedom?
Is it different in this caucus now?
Do they need to look and say which one of these guys can get into the White House?
BRANSTAD: Well, I think Iowans -- and Americans generally -- are looking for somebody that has the leadership ability to focus on the things that are going to revitalize the private sector and bring jobs back and also get this federal deficit under control. We don't want to be like Europe and have this massive debt which is just going to strangle future generations.
CROWLEY: Do you think that Iowans are going to vote with their heads this time around?
Is electability the key thing?
BRANSTAD: Well, I was elected governor again two years ago, basically because people were looking for a leader that can restore stability and predictability and focus on jobs and get our financial house in order. And I think that happened across the Upper Midwest here with the election of governors. I think it's going to be a key issue in the election in the next president, as well.
CROWLEY: If Ron Paul should win this -- and he's got a great organization here, as you know -- do you think, with so many people saying and -- and some polls indicating that he's not electable on a nationwide basis, do you think that renders the Iowa caucuses meaningless in their message?
BRANSTAD: No, I don't think so because the Iowa caucuses have always winnowed the field to about three candidates. So it's all about beating the expectations here.
And Ron Paul, to his credit, has put a lot of time, a lot of effort and a lot of resources in, in his focus on that he's voted against all these deficits, he's been against all this manipulation of the currency. I think it's resonated with Iowa voters. And that's the number one issue.
But I think people also have some concerns about his position on foreign policy. And, as a result, I think as they sort it out, I think he's going to get a significant showing here. But even if he wins Iowa, I think It's really a question of who is going to be in the top three?
The person that's going to really lose --
CROWLEY: You answer that question.
BRANSTAD: Well, I can tell you who's -- who's not going to be, and that's Jon Huntsman. He messed -- he messed up big time.
BRANSTAD: He skipped Iowa.
CROWLEY: So you --
BRANSTAD: And the result is he is going to be -- he's an asterisk and he's never going to get beyond that.
CROWLEY: You know, but I want to talk to you in a second about Jon Huntsman.
But if you could -- looking at it now, what does your gut tell you about who the top three will be?
BRANSTAD: Well, I predicted all along that Santorum would do better than people expect. I think he could get in the top three. So, you know, it -- it looks to me like Romney, Paul and Santorum.
CROWLEY: All right.
BRANSTAD: But I think -- don't count out Congressman -- Senator -- excuse me. I think the one that could do better than some expect would be Governor Perry. And also, Gingrich, who just a few weeks ago was ahead, and I don't know where he's going to end up, but he seems to be going down. Yes, it's really wide open and it really depends on who turns out. I think we're going to have a good turnout. I think people are really concerned about the direction of the country and they want a new leader.
CROWLEY: Let me talk to you a bit about November and Iowa. The president won here by 9.5 percent points the last time around. He has quite a team here and the Obama folks, I can tell you, are out pushing today about what kind of structure they have in place for November.
Does Iowa stay red? Sorry. Does Iowa say Democratic?
BRANSTAD: I think there's a good chance they beat Obama just like I beat the incumbent governor last time.
BRANSTAD: People are unhappy with the direction of the country.
CROWLEY: But your economy is good.
BRANSTAD: Yes, but not because of him, because of agriculture. In fact, what he has done is he has divided the country. He said he would bring people together. He had the opportunity to do that in the State of the Union a year ago, and instead what he did, he punted. And he spent all of his time now attacking the very people, the entrepreneurs and the businesspeople that need to invest and create jobs, and that's not the way to bring this country together.
And they look at his record. Obama's health care is a disaster. It would increase our participation in Medicaid by 150,000. We can't afford that, nor the can other states in this country, and he has -- and he's still not willing to admit that he's moving the country in the wrong direction and I think we need a new leader. And that's why -- I think that's why there's so much interest and I think there's a good chance to defeat him.
I'll tell you, my goal is as governor, unite the Republican Party, attract the independents, and defeat Obama. We launched him, we want to sink him.
CROWLEY: Republican Iowa Governor Terry Branstad. Need I say that? Thank you so much for joining us.
BRANSTAD: Thank you very much.
CROWLEY: We appreciate it.
BRANSTAD: Good to be with you.
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