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Bitter primary battle spills into Iowa GOP convention

By Mark Preston, CNN Senior Political Editor

Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) -- Republican leaders meeting in Des Moines on Saturday were hoping to close the book on a bitter primary battle for governor that pitted conservative-against-conservative in a struggle for control of the Republican Party.

Former Gov. Terry Branstad defeated Bob Vander Plaats and Rod Roberts for the GOP gubernatorial nomination earlier this month, but the hard-fought contest caused fractures within the party at a time when Republicans are ramping up efforts to try and defeat Democratic Gov. Chet Culver in November.

Roberts has endorsed Branstad, but Vander Plaats has not and acknowledged Friday that he is considering an independent bid for governor. At the same time, Vander Plaats' supporters are lobbying Branstad to choose the former rival as his running mate, which Vander Plaats said he would accept when asked during an interview on WHO News Radio 1040 .

Vander Plaats noted he has "not made that decision" about a third-party run, but added that he is getting encouragement to do so. Vander Plaats said in the interview that one of his main criteria would be if "I believe I'd have a clear chance of winning."

Vander Plaats was considered to be the more conservative candidate in the primary.

On Thursday, Branstad, who previously served as governor from 1983 to 1999, named state Sen. Kim Reynolds as his running mate, which infuriated many Vander Plaats supporters who want to see him placed on the ticket. Vander Plaats supporters are expected to make a motion at the convention to have him named the GOP's lieutenant governor nominee. Branstad allies tell CNN that they have enough votes to make sure Reynolds is ratified as the nominee.

In his address to convention attendees Saturday morning, Sen. Chuck Grassley publicly declared his support for the Branstad-Reynolds ticket.