The Republican primary in Iowa's upcoming Senate race might be the first real test of Karl Rove's Conservative Victory Project, an attempt by the GOP establishment to quash unelectable candidates. But the state's conservative governor is already warning Rove to keep away.

“I basically told Karl Rove that what he was doing is counter-productive and he needs to stay out of it,” Gov. Terry Branstad told the Associated Press. “If some outside group that has no connection to Iowa attacks somebody from Iowa, that is not smart." He called the Conservative Victory Project a "mistake."

The target of the group's attacks in Iowa would likely be Rep. Steve King (R), a polarizing figure popular with the tea party. King says he is more than 50 percent likely to run in the 2014 race. Rep. Tom Latham, a more moderate Republican, would likely fare better in a general election but could fall to King in a primary.

Branstad himself has said as much. The governor is an establishment figure who beat back a conservative primary challenge in 2010 from evangelical leader Bob Vander Plaats -- without any help from Rove.