Gov. Branstad: Santorum teaching Romney that 'you can't ignore Iowa'

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad praised Rick Santorum's surge in the polls a day before the Iowa caucuses and said his rise had taught GOP front runner Mitt Romney a valuable lesson.

"Mitt Romney learned a lesson, that you can't ignore Iowa too long," said Branstad on MSNBC's Morning Joe on Monday. 

He said Santorum had "moved methodically" and "built a strong statewide organization" that had enabled him to connect with Iowa's voters.

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"Debates are important, social media is important but you can't beat personal appearances," he added praising Santorum's approach in the state.

The former Pennsylvania senator has visited each of the state's 99 counties and has surged in the polls with Saturday's Des Moines Register poll showing him with 15 percent support for third place behind Romney and Rep. Ron Paul (Texas)

Santorum events in Iowa over the weekend saw large crowds buoying his campaign which believes they are well-placed to translate the new enthusiasm into a strong showing on Tuesday.

Gov. Branstad continued to hold back from endorsing a candidate. When asked if he would endorse the eventual caucus winner he said he intended to "wait a little while." "But I'm going to endorse the strongest candidate who I think can unite the party and win the presidency," he added.

"The president is very weak," said Branstad. "This state that launched Obama can sink Obama."

The GOP governor also predicted a heavy turnout on Tuesday noting strong interest in the campaign and pointing out that "turnouts for the candidates have been large" over the weekend.