Texas Senator Ted Cruz may be ahead in the polls in Iowa but he is not the state’s favorite or a shoe-in to win the all-important caucuses in two weeks. Gov. Terry Branstad spoke to the press at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, giving a message to Iowa voters that have to defeat Cruz in the caucuses because the GOP candidate is against the “federal renewable fuel mandate.”
The Iowa governor used his political capital to attempt to sway the caucuses on Feb. 1. Gov. Branstad called Cruz the campaign’s “biggest opponent of renewable fuels.” Branstad made his case against the Tea Party favorite and conservative senator, who is placing second to GOP frontrunner Donald Trump nationally.
The Iowa Governor said, “Ted Cruz is ahead right now. What we’re trying to do is educate the people in the state of Iowa. He is the biggest opponent of renewable fuels. He actually introduced a bill in 2013 to immediately eliminate the Renewable Fuel Standard. He’s heavily financed by Big Oil. So we think once Iowans realize that fact, they might find other things attractive but he could be very damaging to our state.”
Gov. Branstad argued Cruz “hasn’t supported renewable fuels, and I think it would be a big mistake for Iowa to support him.” When reporters asked if he would like to see “Cruz defeated Branstad responded, “yes.” Branstad convincingly said Cruz is “diametrically opposed to what we really care about. We should not support someone who is opposing those things that are critically important to the economic well-being of our state.”
Later Branstad spoke to CNN and reiterated his position, “I don’t think it’s a foregone conclusion that Ted Cruz is going to win this state. Because as Iowans learn about his anti-renewable fuel stand, and that it will cost us jobs, and will further reduce farm income, I think people will realize that it’s not in our interest. I don’t think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus.”
The issue Branstad was referring to was the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), an issue important to Iowans as the country’s leading producers of ethanol and the RFS determines how much ethanol is be mixed with gasoline. Ethanol is important to the Iowa economy, and the businesses of ethanol producers and Iowa farmers.
Now Cruz is saying the RFS should be phased out in five years to gain Iowans’ favor, but initially, he called for an immediate end of the RFS. Cruz just expressed this newer position at the beginning of January, “I do believe there should be a gradual phase-out because there has been investment-based expectations.”
Cruz was trying to say his position is the best for Iowa, “The lobbyists are trying the best they can to snooker the people of Iowa and convince the people of Iowa that a government mandate is the only way for ethanol to survive. The problem is, the government is blocking ethanol. They are trying to convince you the mandate is the best way to go.”
In 2013, Cruz was singing a different tune about the RFS, when he co-sponsored Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso’s legislation calling to an immediate repeal of the RFS. Then Cruz changed his position sponsoring legislation for a 5-year phase out in 2013 and 2014.
Support for the RFS is key for any Iowa caucus winner whether Republican or Democrat. Cruz’s lead in Iowa polls is slim, and this call by the governor might be enough to push the caucus victory to Trump’s column. Trump is in a deep rivalry with Cruz as they vie for the first nominating state and has been attacking Cruz RFS position. Trump, in contrast, supports the RFS. The GOP seemed pleased with Branstad remarks writing on Twitter his approval, “Wow, the highly respected Governor of Iowa just stated that “Ted Cruz must be defeated.” Big shoker! People do not like Ted.”