Pataki Defends Iowa Caucuses

By Alexander Burns
|  Tuesday, Jun 21, 2011  |  Updated 6:57 AM EDT
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George Pataki called on Republican presidential candidates Monday to compete in the 2012 Iowa caucuses, telling POLITICO that the state represents “the type of politics that is good for America.”

The former New York governor was visiting Iowa for an event hosted by his fiscal conservative group, No American Debt, and confirmed that he’s still undecided on a possible White House bid.

But Pataki sounded more like a man considering the presidential race and potentially willing to give up a comfortable post-political career. He mused that Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad was an example of a politician who had hung up his electoral hat, only to return in a moment of crisis.

“I love the private sector, but take a look at Gov. Branstad. He was governor, I think for 16 years, and was doing a great job out of government,” Pataki said in a phone interview. “But he saw his state headed horribly in the wrong direction and he came back.”

Arguing that the federal government is “headed horribly in the wrong direction and needs change and needs to be reined in,” Pataki said that under those circumstances “if you don’t get involved in some capacity, shame on you.”

Pataki wouldn’t put a timeline on his 2012 decision, though No American Debt has been running cable TV ads in Iowa and New Hampshire that put his voice – if not his face – in early-state living rooms.

And Pataki already has strong views on the geography of the campaign – touting the Iowa caucuses that at least one candidate, Jon Huntsman, plans to skip, and that frontrunner Mitt Romney is approaching only tentatively.

“Anybody who’s looking to be the Republican nominee should compete, I think, in Iowa. It’s a state where you can engage with people, across the table, in small groups,” Pataki said.

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