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December 20th, 2013

Ethanol Has Lost Its Luster With Some Republican U.S. Senate Candidates – The Weekly Round Up

Name one federal candidate from Iowa who has successfully run for office and who has also opposed the ethanol industry?

Name a current or former Iowa governor that has either been hostile to the ethanol industry or uninterested in its success?

That’s right, Iowa has never elected a U.S. Senator, Congressman, or Governor who opposes the ethanol industry. What’s surprising is that only two of the Republican candidates running for the open U.S. Senate seat in Iowa, Sam Clovis and Mark Jacobs, participated in an Iowa Renewable Fuels Association candidates’ forum on Thursday afternoon in Cherokee.  Three Republican candidates for the U.S. Senate, Joni Ernst, Matt Whitaker, and David Young all declined the opportunity to participate in the forum.

Both Clovis and Jacobs backed the Renewable Fuels Standard that the EPA wants to eliminate.   Clovis admitted that his position on the issue has evolved as he’s studied the issue.  Jacobs has backed maintaining the Renewable Fuels Standard as it an important catalyst to the Iowa economy and because it helps guarantee that consumers have a choice at the pump.

While Ernst and Whitaker didn’t attend the event, they were recently asked about the Renewable Fuels Standard at a recent forum.  Both indicated that they don’t support the initiative.  The Iowa Democratic Party has already attacked them for their position.

Ernst: “We Want People To Choose The Products That Work For Them And Not Have them Mandated By The United States Government.” During a December 2013 Republican candidate forum, candidate Joni Ernst said: “There’s a number of things, a number of industries, out there that we need to look at, but I agree that it does have to be free market driven. I think that that is very important also, and we will get to that point someday and I’m certain of it. We want people to choose products that work for them and not have them mandated by the United States government, and we are well on our way.” [Republican Jewish Coalition Forum, 12/16/13]

Whitaker: Renewable Fuel Standard Is About The Government “Picking Winners And Losers.” During a December 2013 Republican candidate forum, candidate Matt Whitaker said: “The EPA, in and of itself, is a horrible organization. They are anti-farmer, they are anti-innovation, and they are causing a consolidation in industry, whether it’s farming or whether it’s other things. That right now in America one of the ways you compete in private industry is to have a really good compliance department. That isn’t what America is about, whether you can follow the EPA’s rules better than the competition; it is about an entrepreneurial idea that goes to market and she makes profit because she has a great idea, and that’s what we need to encourage. And until we get to that, sort of all these discussions about mandates, and subsidies, and picking winners and losers, then the federal government is just going to encourage the folks at the EPA to pass more regulations, that across the federal government, a new regulation every two and a half days.” [Republican Jewish Coalition Forum, 12/16/13]

What both candidates seem to miss is that the Renewable Fuels Standard is important to the Iowa economy.  When the latest Renewable Fuel Standard was signed into law in 2005, the price of corn was $1.95 a bushel.  Corn prices rose steadily in the years that followed, going from $3.09 in 2006 to $6.94 in 2012.  The price of corn dropped to $4.85 per bushel in 2013.   Those high corn prices are good for the Iowa economy.  Iowa was able to weather the recent economic downturn in large part due to a robust ag economy.

When the price of corn is high farmers don’t need farm subsidies from the federal government corn production.  That could change if the Renewable Fuels Standard goes away and lower demand and high yield cause the price of corn to plummet.  Once farmers lose profitability they will once again get a subsidy from the federal government.

When Iowa farmers are profitable, they buy new equipment, pickup trucks, and build new buildings which is all good for the local economy.  High corn prices have also caused the price of farm ground to skyrocket.  Today, the price of farmland is at an all-time high to an average cost of $8,716 per acre.  If the price of corn would plummets, the price of farm ground will soon follow.

As was explained at yesterday’s forum, the elimination of the Renewable Fuels Standard would actually be a mandate that only petroleum products would be available to consumers.  So while candidates like Ernst and Whitaker claim that the standard lets the government pick winners and losers, having no standard at all means that our government is once again giving preferential treatment to the oil industry.

It seems odd that a Republican candidate would shy away from the ethanol industry while trying to win the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate.  In recent weeks both Governor Branstad and Congressman Steve King have been very vocal in pushing back against the EPA’s plan to scrap the Renewable Fuels Standard.  That’s a centrist Republican in Branstad and perhaps one of the most conservative members of Congress in King.  Yet, Ernst and Whitaker have chosen to distance themselves from the issue.

Both of those campaigns may want to look at Brad Zaun’s failed 2010 congressional campaign to see if this is a strategy they want to follow.  We all know that Congressman Boswell ran a particularly negative campaign against Zaun that year, but Boswell’s first attack on Zaun was the ethanol issue.  Thus is should come as no surprise that Iowa Democrats are already attacking Ernst and Whitaker on the issue.

Like the rest of the Iowa delegation, Congressman Bruce Braley supports the continuation of the Renewable Fuels Standard.  Republicans historically enjoy a rural advantage over their Democrat opponents, but this is an issue that could nullify that advantage should Republicans nominate a candidate that is in opposition to the ethanol industries agenda.

Ernst’s opposition to the Renewable Fuels Standard is somewhat surprising considering that she represents a huge rural southwest Iowa district in the State Senate.  Ernst is also publically backed by the Lt. Governor and privately backed by Governor Branstad.  It seems strange that she would be at odds with him on such an important issue in Iowa.

I don’t understand the political calculation that each of these campaigns has made.  I know that presidential candidates were able to come into Iowa in 2012 and not publicly embrace the ethanol industry, but they don’t live here.  Further more, the number of people who caucus for Republicans is about half the size of the number of people who will participate in the Republican primary next June.

I think some of these candidates are getting bad advice, and some of them have supporters who know the ethanol industry extremely well.

Quick Hits:

Jerry Crawford Knows Women:  On last week’s installment of the “Insiders” on WHO-TV, Democrat powerbroker Jerry Crawford castigated Republican U.S. Senate Candidate Mark Jacobs for saying a week earlier that you have to talk to women on a “emotional level.”

I could go on and on about this topic, but I find Crawford’s outrage about Jacobs’ statement about women to be a little ironic considering that Crawford parades scantily clad women on to the basketball court of his Iowa Energy basketball games for the crowd’s amusement.  If objectifying women’s bodies isn’t disrespectful to women, I don’t know what is.

Tyler Olson Bows Out:  Tyler Olson said that he was going to dedicate the month of December to his family and then resume his campaign for governor.  He only needed a week to determine that he was toast.  It probably helped that a Des Moines Register poll showed Branstad with outstanding re-elect numbers.

Bob Krause – Democrat Frontrunner for Governor: I just had to laugh when the Des Moines Register Poll showed that wacko Bob Krause had better favorability numbers than Jack Hatch and Tyler Olson.  Krause has a higher favorability than Hatch, a considerably lower unfavorable number, and is better known to Iowans.  And Hatch thinks that no other Democrats will jump into the race.  LOL.

Talk about A Great Day, TIR’s Kevin Hall Destroyed Jeff Link on TV:  Jeff Link is perhaps the cream of the crop when it comes to Democrat political operatives in the state.  He was no match for TIR’s Kevin Hall when the two appeared on KCWI’s “Great Day” on Tuesday morning.

The conversation started out good for both, but when Hall linked Braley to President Obama’s “Lie of the Year,” that people could keep their current health insurance if they wanted, things got ugly for Link and Braley.  Link did his best to try and spin Braley’s record, but Hall destroyed him with just straight facts.  You know you won the argument when the guy you are arguing with changes the subject.

The interaction is a preview of what next fall’s campaign will hopefully be like.  There is no need for Republicans to try and get cute with Braley or attack him on every little thing he’s done.  The issue of Obamacare is deadly for him.  It’s probably why he can’t get near 50 percent in head-to-head polls with the unknown Republican field.  If a pollster were smart, he or she would test Braley against a generic Republican.  I bet he would be trailing.

The good stuff begins around the 6:30 mark!

About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson is the founder and editor-in-chief of, a political news and commentary site he launched in March of 2009. Robinson’s political analysis is respected across party lines, which has allowed him to build a good rapport with journalist across the country. Robinson has also been featured on Iowa Public Television’s Iowa Press, ABC’s This Week, and other local television and radio programs. Campaign’s & Elections Magazine recognized Robinson as one of the top influencers of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses. A 2013 Politico article sited Robinson and as the “premier example” of Republican operatives across the country starting up their own political news sites. His website has been repeatedly praised as the best political blog in Iowa by the Washington Post, and in January of 2015, Politico included him on the list of local reporters that matter in the early presidential states. Robinson got his first taste of Iowa politics in 1999 while serving as Steve Forbes’ southeast Iowa field coordinator where he was responsible for organizing 27 Iowa counties. In 2007, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa where he was responsible for organizing the 2007 Iowa Straw Poll and the 2008 First-in-the-Nation Iowa Caucuses. Following the caucuses, he created his own political news and commentary site, Robinson is also the President of Global Intermediate, a national mail and political communications firm with offices in West Des Moines, Iowa, and Washington, D.C. Robinson utilizes his fundraising and communications background to service Global’s growing client roster with digital and print marketing. Robinson is a native of Goose Lake, Iowa, and a 1999 graduate of St. Ambrose University in Davenport, where he earned degrees in history and political science. Robinson lives in Ankeny, Iowa, with his wife, Amanda, and son, Luke. He is an active member of the Lutheran Church of Hope.

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