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Dole says Romney campaign didn’t know about VP chat with Branstad

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Former senator and 1996 GOP presidential nominee Bob Dole said Tuesday that Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign had no knowledge of his phone call to Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) in which Dole suggested he would recommend Branstad as a vice presidential pick.

Branstad talked about their conversation at a press conference Monday, and given Dole’s endorsement of Romney over the weekend, some have suggested it was a ploy by the Romney campaign to get a leg up in the first-in-the-nation caucus state. The Iowa caucuses are on Jan. 3.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad speaks to legislative reporters during a meeting organized by The Associated Press earlier this month at the Statehouse in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Dole said it was nothing of the sort.

“Let me make it clear that this was my own opinion and the Romney campaign didn’t have any knowledge of my call,” Dole said in a statement released to The Fix. “Gov. Branstad and I are good friends, and I called him up to tell him what I thought.”

The Dole-Branstad relationship goes back years, including when the Iowa governor endorsed Dole in the 1996 presidential campaign, before Dole became the GOP nominee.

While Branstad is not generally thought of as a potential running mate if Romney wins the GOP nod (or another candidate for that matter), Dole said he makes a lot of sense.

“Obviously I have no authority to offer the vice presidency to anyone, but I do have my own opinions,” Dole said. “I raised it because I do know political talent when I see it, and Gov. Branstad has it. He comes from the Midwest, which could be a battlefield in 2012.”

At his press conference Monday, Branstad said Dole called him to let him know that he was endorsing Romney, and then broached the idea of Branstad joining the Romney ticket as number two.

Branstad said the thought hadn’t crossed his mind.

“I said, ‘I’m not interested,’” Branstad said, according to the Des Moines Register. “I was flattered, and said, ‘That’s not something I ever even thought of.’”

Even if Branstad didn’t connect Dole’s offer to a potential endorsement of Romney, it’s hard to see Dole making such an offer without having a Branstad-for-Romney endorsement in mind, particularly given Dole endorsed Romney around the same time.

And the endorsement could be huge for Romney, who would love a good finish in a state where he has some problems.

So far, Branstad has shown no appetite for such an endorsement, but his comments suggest the idea of being a kingmaker or vice president is at least intriguing to him.

At the same time, it’s even harder to see Branstad offering a Romney endorsement now. Doing so would risk making the Iowa governor look like a political opportunist with designs on becoming Romney’s VP.

Having said that, he probably wasn’t going to endorse Romney anyways.

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