Iowa governor: Romney campaign in ‘real trouble’ if he loses big in caucuses

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s (R) presidential campaign would be in “real trouble” if he suffers a big loss in Iowa’s caucuses in February, the state’s Republican governor said Sunday.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) decried Romney’s decision not to participate in yesterday’s straw poll in Ames, which Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) won. Romney got about three percent of the vote in the event, which he won in 2007 but skipped this cycle.

{mosads}”He made a mistake by not participating in the straw poll,” Branstad said on “Meet the Press.”

Branstad’s been an open cheerleader for the state’s role in selecting the next Republican presidential nominee. He’s said that a candidate who skips Iowa would be at a disadvantage in the general election.

“It’s important for him to come here and compete,” Branstad said of Romney. “If he gets blown out in Iowa, I think he’s in real trouble.”

Romney hasn’t made a big push to win the caucuses this time around, contrasting with his 2008 presidential bid. He’s focused instead on winning New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primaries, and on building a national campaign infrastructure.

The decreased emphasis on Iowa reflects the situation on the ground in the state, where social conservatives and party activists dominate. Bachmann rocketed to frontrunner status with her straw poll win, and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) is expected to shake up the race.

But that doesn’t count Romney out. He said this week in the state that he’d still like to win the contests.

“I’d like to do darn well in those caucuses,” he told supporters this week in Pella.

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