The state’s Republican governor-in-waiting says presidential candidates will be making a mistake if they skip the Iowa Republican Party’s Straw Poll next summer. “Not participating certainly is not a very good strategy,” says Governor-elect Terry Branstad, “so I would certainly encourage people to come and to participate.”

Candidates who ran in 2008, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani skipped the Republican Party’s last Strawpoll, held in August of 2007 in Ames. Five months later, neither was among the top finishers in the Iowa Caucuses. During his fourth term as governor Branstad endorsed Bob Dole’s 1996 bid for the White House.

Branstad, who is preparing to be sworn in for his fifth term as governor in January, isn’t ruling out endorsing a candidate for the Republican Party’s 2012 presidential nomination, but he’s not making that endorsement now. “I want to be very welcoming and encourage all potential Republican candidates to come to Iowa, spend their time here,” Branstad says. “I think I’ve demonstrated how you can win elections in Iowa. You do it by going to all 99 counties and meeting with a lot of people and articulating a vision and a plan for where you want to lead the state or, in this case, the country.”

A potential presidential candidate was in northwest Iowa earlier today. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin was at the Walmart in Spirit Lake, signing copies of her new book.