CEDAR RAPIDS — With 22 days until Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses, it’s the “silly season,” Ted Cruz told a packed house in Strawberry Point Saturday afternoon.
Cruz, the front-runner in the Iowa caucus campaign, was referring to the “millions of dollars of attacks ads … of more and more false and ridiculous lies” attacking him for, among other things, his opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard that sets the minimum volume of renewable fuel — ethanol — in transportation fuels and is seen by Iowa ethanol producers as key to their market.
Mark Wynthein of Arlington, who said that 90 percent of his corn crop is sold to an ethanol producer, asked Cruz to “ease my mind” in regard to reports that the Texas senator wants to eliminate the RFS.
Cruz was quick to say he opposes the RFS and has introduced legislation to phase out the mandate in five years as well as all other subsidies and mandates for all forms of energy.
He’s also calling for elimination of the EPA’s blend wall that, Cruz said, makes it “functionally illegal” to sell gasoline with a higher mix of ethanol than 10 to 15 percent. Removing that cap couple expand ethanol’s market share by as much as 60 percent, he said.
“It would be good to get rid of the blend wall,” Wynthein said. However, simply removing that cap on ethanol sales would not be an immediate shot in the arm for corn and ethanol producers because American carmakers don’t produce enough cars that can burn E-25 or E-30 gas-ethanol blend.
Like Cruz, Wynthein doesn’t like energy subsidies and mandates, but he wasn’t convinced that Cruz isn’t supported by opponents of ethanol.
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“It appears to me he has Big Oil money behind him and that’s my fear that all of the influence when he’s in the White House,” Wynthein said.
He wasn’t alone in that worry.
“I’m questioning the ethanol issue,” said Linda Soules of Lamont, who was among the 150 or more people who crowded into the Home Cookin’ Restaurant to hear Cruz.
“I’m a farm wife, so that’s my bread and butter,” said Soules, the mother of Chris Soules, the winner of “The Bachelor.”
Cruz is the first candidate Soules has seen and she hasn’t made up her mind who she will back in the Feb. 1 caucuses.
Next to her in the standing room only crowd, Carl Michels, who works in a Dubuque machine shop, said decided within the past month to caucus for Cruz.
“I’m a lifelong Republican, but I’m more of a conservative than a Republican and not happy with a lot of Republicans,” Michels said. “I know there are a lot of Republicans who aren’t happy with Cruz, so he must be doing something right.”
Barb Feeney of Manchester likes Cruz because “Washington is broken and he has the courage to stand up to the Washington status quo.”
Too many Republicans are “giving up who they are to fit in,” Feeney said, “so I admire someone who doesn’t do that.”
Cruz, she added, “represents conservative values that mirror our Midwestern values.”
Cruz also made stops in Rossville and Oelwein Saturday.