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After Cruz Win, How Important Is Candidate Stance On Ethanol?


New Hampshire is next. Iowa - done. And subsidies that have long been important to Iowa might also be done. Ted Cruz's victory there is raising questions about an Iowa industry that's long-held sway over presidential candidates. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: That industry is ethanol. Iowa is the top producer of it in the country. The industry spent millions of dollars against Ted Cruz. That's because he did not support a federal requirement to blend ethanol into the nation's gasoline supply.


UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Senator Cruz is fighting in Congress to end the renewable fuel standard, hurting farmers and costing thousands of Iowans their jobs.

MASTERS: Cruz told Iowa Public Radio late last year he favors getting rid of all energy subsidies and mandates.


TED CRUZ: I don't think we should have Washington picking winners and losers, that when you have politicians putting in place a mandate, what it ends up doing is empowering those politicians. And so I believe we should phase out the ethanol mandate, and I've introduced legislation to do that.

TERRY BRANSTAD: The only winner that's been chosen is oil, and they've been chosen for a hundred years because they're getting all kinds of subsidies.

MASTERS: That's Iowa's Republican governor, Terry Branstad. He did not endorse a candidate, but he lobbied against Cruz.

BRANSTAD: Unless he changes his position on renewable energy, I don't think he has much of a chance to win here in a general election.

MASTERS: In fact, Branstad's son, Eric, works for the ethanol trade group that was running ads against Cruz. In the end, only Cruz and Rand Paul got bad ratings from that group. The other candidates supported the ethanol mandate. Despite Cruz's victory in Iowa, most presidential candidates still don't want to take on ethanol, says Tim Cheung. He's an analyst with ClearView Energy Partners.

TIM CHEUNG: The top 10 corn producing states in the country were responsible for about 100 electoral votes, or more than one-third of the vote that you need to take the White House. So in that context, we don't think that its position across the board and in Iowa has really changed just because of Monday.

MASTERS: Meanwhile, Cruz missed an opportunity earlier this week to vote against subsidies for oil. He was campaigning in New Hampshire. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He was part of a team of member station political reporters who covered the 2016 presidential race for NPR. He also covers environmental issues.