Elections and Politics: Obama’s Fuel Standards Could Affect Clinton in Iowa

In a roundup of rural-related political news from the around the country, Bill Bishop looks at Clinton in Iowa, Native Americans in local office across the U.S., and Maine state senate seats.

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voting_button_final-01The Obama administration will soon make a decision that Politico thinks may affect how well Hillary Clinton fares in the Iowa caucuses.

The issue is corn, a crop that is dear to Iowans. The Obama administration will decide how much corn-based ethanol must be blended into the nation’s gasoline supply. Iowans like the mandate, Politico writes, because it keeps up the demand for corn.

But there may be trouble for Clinton with Obama’s decision. “Many observers expect the Environmental Protection Agency to dial back the mandate — requiring refiners to use fewer gallons of ethanol than Congress had demanded when it created the program’s current version in 2007,” write Alex Guillen and Jenny Hopkinson.

The reporters say this would still be more biofuel added than the oil industry wants. But any change in the Renewable Fuel Standard that diminishes the demand for corn-based fuel could be used against Clinton.

Guillen and Hopkinson report:

“Clinton’s campaign has declined to respond to questions about her position on the ethanol program. But the administration’s decision will increase the pressure on her to say whether she agrees or disagrees with the EPA’s call to fall behind the specific gallon mandates that Congress had written into the law.”

Democrats Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley both back strong ethanol mandates.

Where do Republican candidates stand on this issue? Politico says that Donald Trump, Mike Huckabee and Chris Christie all call for a strong ethanol mandate. Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Rand Paul say the mandate violates free market principles and should be done away with. The other candidates are squishy on the issue.

One Republican operative notes that the Iowa contest is a “battle of niches.” The corn niche is a big one.

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The invaluable Mark Trahant has produced an interactive map showing where Native Americans hold state offices.

By Mark’s latest count, at least 73 American Indians, Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians serve in 17 state legislatures.

Trahant gives a special rundown on the emergence of Native American officeholders in Montana

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The Bangor Daily News reports that several “prominent Democrats” are getting close to announcing races for Maine state senate seats. Many of these are in rural areas, writes Michael Shepherd.

Control of the state senate has flipped between parties. In 2014, Shepherd writes, Republicans took control when Governor Paul LePage “carried rural areas on his way to re-election, winning all but one county — Hancock — in the more sparsely populated 2nd Congressional District….”

Democrats have won the state in each presidential election since 1992, but that hasn’t guaranteed control of the state senate. And “the road to a majority Senate will run through rural parts of Maine where Democrats have struggled in recent years,” Shepherd writes.

The Democrats who are running have strong National Rifle Association ratings, candidates who will help “build a bigger-tent party,” said Lizzy Reinholt, a Democratic strategist. And that should affect statewide races.

“The ability to recruit strong, rural Democrats is going to be really important for us moving forward in the 2nd Congressional District and when it comes to running candidates in statewide races,” she said.

 

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