Terry Branstad

Branstad: Cruz would be ‘very damaging’ to Iowa


ALTOONA — Gov. Terry Branstad wants Ted Cruz defeated.

With an unconventional intervention just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, Branstad battered presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, calling him the “big oil” candidate and saying it would be a “big mistake” for Iowans to support him.

The comments came at a news conference after Branstad spoke at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit in Altoona on Tuesday.

“Ted Cruz is ahead right now,” Branstad told reporters. “What we’re trying to do is educate the people in the state of Iowa. (Cruz) 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.”

Branstad has generally stayed clear of endorsing or criticizing Republican presidential candidates during his six terms prior to the caucuses.

The lone exception was his endorsement of Republican White House contender Bob Dole, then a U.S. senator from Kansas, during the 1996 GOP nominating cycle. In his role as a former governor in 2000, Branstad supported George W. Bush prior to the Iowa caucuses.

Cruz, who is either leading or a close second in most Iowa polls, did not immediately respond to Branstad, but the campaign emailed supporters asking for donations.

“The longest serving Republican career politician in the nation and his politically connected family is coordinating with establishment politicians and super PACs to lead an 11th hour attack against us and sink our campaign,” the email partially read.

Cruz’s lack of support for the Renewable Fuel Standard has put him in the crosshairs of biofuel supporters.

The Renewable Fuel Standard is a federal program that requires transportation fuel sold in the U.S. to contain a minimum volume of renewable fuels. The RFS originated with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 and was expanded and extended by the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. Control of fuel standards is set to become the providence of the EPA in 2022 unless Congress extends the program.

Critics cite the Cruz-sponsored 2013 “Renewable Fuel Standards Repeal Act” and his ties with the oil industry as reason for concern. Cruz did declare support for the RFS until it expires in 2022 at a recent campaign stop in Sioux Center.

According to Politico, Cruz did respond to reporters’ questions later Tuesday afternoon. He said this attack was all about the “establishment” and “cronyism” in Washington.

“I’m saying Iowa corn farmers are wonderful Americans, but Iowa corn farmers are not career politicians,” Cruz said, taking another shot at Branstad. “Iowa corn farmers are frustrated with career politicians. They’re fed up with politicians who make deals every day to grow government, to expand the debt.”

Other candidates, especially front-runner Donald Trump, jumped at the opportunity to pile on Cruz.

“Wow, the highly respected Governor of Iowa just stated that ‘Ted Cruz must be defeated.’ Big (shocker)! People do not like Ted,” Trump wrote on Twitter.

U.S. Rep. Steve King, a Kiron Republican and high-profile Cruz supporter, called Branstad’s move an “unendorsement,” saying that Branstad is supporting Donald Trump by default, according to the Associated Press.

The most recent Des Moines Register/Bloomberg poll shows Cruz with a 25 percent to 22 percent lead over Trump among those likely to attend the Republican caucuses Feb. 1.

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