Observers of the 2012 presidential race turned their attention to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) on Thursday after the Washington Post's David Broder suggested in his column that Branstad "is generally counted" in the camp of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R).
In response, aides to Branstad were quick to reiterate that the governor remains neutral. But speculation over Branstad's endorsement may linger, given that late last year, he did not rule out the possibility of a potential endorsement down the road, even as he maintained his neutral stance.
As the Des Moines Register's Tom Beaumont points out, Branstad is a contemporary of Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R), another potential presidential contender. Meanwhile, close allies of Branstad -- Chuck Larson and Karen Slifka -- are advising Pawlenty, Beaumont notes.
But Branstad also has ties to former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), who endorsed him during the 2010 gubernatorial primary. Numerous former Romney staffers were on Branstad's 2010 campaign staff, including Romney's former Iowa press secretary Tim Albrecht, who is Branstad's current communications director.
There may be several potential candidates who believe they can get Branstad's endorsement: a slew of potential 2012 candidates were in Iowa to stump for Branstad in the closing days of the 2010 general election contest.
Branstad remained neutral during the 2008 caucuses, but during his prior stint as governor, he did endorse former Sen. Bob Dole (R) in '96. He was neutral during the '88 Iowa caucuses as governor.