Governors Test Iowa Waters

Mitt Romney, Massachusetts Governor, 11-24-03
Potential presidential candidates attending the annual National Governors Association meeting are making time to get better acquainted with some of the prominent residents of this early decision state.

High atop the list of those to meet was former Republican Gov. Terry Branstad.

"I do know Iowa," Branstad said. "I've run some successful campaigns here, and I'm willing to give advice and counsel."

Branstad had dinner Friday night with Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. On Saturday, he lunched with New York Gov. George Pataki.

Both Republicans are considered possible presidential candidates in 2008 and were eager to learn a little about Iowa from one of the state's most successful politicians.

Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, a Democrat, met with Gordon Fischer, a Des Moines lawyer and former chairman of the Iowa Democratic Party.

"He said he was definitely exploring it and hoped to come back to Iowa a lot more," Fischer said.

In the world of presidential politics, a potential candidate sometimes says it all simply by showing up in the state where precinct caucuses launch the White House nominating season.

"When you come to Iowa twice in a month, it's pretty obvious," Fischer said.

Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack was taking steps of his own, bashing fellow Democrats for not offering a sharp enough alternative to President Bush and congressional Republicans. He said he'll help gubernatorial candidates craft a "values-oriented message," and conceded that could raise his national profile if he succeeds.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson arrived late but made time to speak to a group of trial lawyers, a key Democratic constituency.

"I'm going to run for re-election and then take a look at where we are after my election," Richardson said. "I'm not ruling it in, I'm not ruling it out."