Iowa's Republican governor warned GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Monday against skipping Iowa's caucuses next year.

Gov. Terry Branstad (R) said that Romney would be sorely mistaken if he were to skip Iowa, which will host the first nominating contest of the 2012 cycle, with its caucuses scheduled for Feb. 6, 2012.

"I think it would be important for him to actively compete in Iowa," Branstad said at his weekly press conference, audio of which was posted by Radio Iowa. "Now, I understand that when you're from Massachusetts, you're at a disadvantage when you're competing with people from neighboring states."

Romney is set to make his first trip to the Hawkeye State in late May. On Monday, he named a state director to head up his organization in Iowa. Sara Craig, Romney's field director for central Iowa in the last campaign, will serve as his state director in the 2012 campaign.

Branstad said he didn't have any meeting with Romney set up during his trip to Iowa, though the Iowa governor said he'd be happy to arrange one. Branstad also set expectations for Romney: finish among the top three candidates.

"Nevertheless, I do think it's important to compete here," he said. "And maybe you don't have to win, but doing relatively well — and he's considered the national front-runner, so I think being in the top three is important in Iowa."

The former Massachusetts governor competed aggressively in Iowa in 2008 but placed second to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R). Huckabee has announced that he won't seek the nomination in 2012.

Romney made his first visit this past weekend to South Carolina, usually the third state in the nominating process, but his campaign has focused a great deal of its effort on New Hampshire, where Romney enjoys an early lead in the polls, in part due to his experience in neighboring Massachusetts.

Branstad also had praise for former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R), who is announcing his presidential campaign Monday afternoon.

"I'm encouraged about the fact that Gov. Pawlenty has chosen to announce in Iowa, not Minnesota," he said.