A man who has run three statewide campaigns in Iowa is offering a note of caution about this Saturday’s Iowa Republican Party Straw Poll.

Bob Vander Plaats is a Republican who ran for governor in 2002, 2006 and 2010.

“I’m a guy who knows the value of a straw poll,” Vander Plaats told a group of reporters Tuesday morning. “I won about every one of ’em, but I’m not governor today.”

Vander Plaats said he’s told the presidential candidates who’ve asked for his advice that they need to be focused on the end game in Iowa.

“Straw polls have short shelf-lives. You have to have a Caucus strategy if you want to be president of the United States,” Vander Plaats said. “I remember (former Arkansas Governor Mike) Huckabee took second place in Ames four years ago. Our next event was in Clinton, Iowa, probably two weeks later. We had two weeks later.”

Vander Plaats, who calls the Caucus campaign a “grueling” endeavor, endorsed Huckabee in 2008, but he has not yet endorsed a candidate for 2012.  Vander Plaats suggests there are many Iowa Republicans who haven’t yet chosen a candidate either.

“The debate coming up on Thursday, I think a lot of people are going to look at that debate with significant interest,” Vander Plaats said. “Because if any of you study the polls, there’s a lot of movement in those polls yet…People are willing to go different places.” 

The debate Thursday evening among the major Republican candidates will be held in Ames and broadcast on the FOX News Channel, starting at 8 o’clock.

Vander Plaats is now CEO of The Family Leader, an organization that has been pushing for a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in Iowa.