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Ted Cruz's opposition to the ethanol mandate may prove troublesome in Iowa

Senator Ted Cruz
Senator Ted Cruz
Photo by Pool/Getty Images

The Hill Newspaper noted on Wednesday that Iowa, the first in the nation caucus state, contains a problem for Sen. Ted Cruz, the junior senator from Texas and a possible presidential candidate. Federal law mandates that gasoline sold in the United Sates contain 10 percent ethanol. This mandate benefits Iowa farmers, who grow lots of corn from which ethanol is extracted. Cruz is an opponent of the mandate and has offered legislation to end it.

The mandate is a problem for a number of republicans, including Sen. Rand Paul and Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who have also spoken out against the mandate. The argument against it tends to be sound; burning food for fuel has caused the price of food to rise considerably. Corn is not only eaten directly, but it used as feed for livestock. However the counter argument is that Iowans are not going to vote for someone who wants to end the mandate.

Cruz would have a couple of options for dealing with the ethanol subsidy issue. He could try to finesse the issue, which is to say flip flop. Sen. John McCain was against the mandate at the beginning of the 2008 election cycle, with the result that he finished fourth in the Iowa Caucus that year. He “evolved” on the issue as he went one on one with then Sen. Barack Obama for the presidency in the fall.

The problem is that Cruz does not finesse very well. It is a tendency that has delighted his constituents but has enraged some of his fellow senators. So he is left with the other option, to go all in on his opposition to the mandate and try to explain to Iowans in particular and Americans in general how it is wasteful and bad energy policy.

It could be his Sister Soujah moment, harkening back to how Bill Clinton denounced an African American musician named Sister Soujah for her racially charged statements and song lyrics, which he compared to David Duke. While Clinton upset some of his base with that statement, he impressed the country at large with his independence. He went on to win the 1992 presidential election. Therefore that may not be a bad tact for Cruz to take.