How Cruz Wins New Hampshire, and the Nomination

It’s the ethanol, Sherlock.

Ted Cruz thinks he's going to win Iowa, and will compete for the nomination with whichever of the establishment candidates wins New Hampshire. But he's selling himself short. He should also win New Hampshire, allowing him to wrap up the nomination on March 1st.  

For if he wins Iowa, he will have defeated the ethanol lobby. And beating Big Corn on its home turf is what can propel him to a win in New Hampshire.

People in New Hampshire hate ethanol. Ethanol is corrosive, it destroys engines. If ethanol-laced gasoline is more than a couple months old, it can't be used in high performance small engines. It is hydroscopic, attracting water, another problem with performance.

A lot of guys have a personal problem with ethanol. Go to any tavern in New Hampshire and you'll hear an earful. There's nothing worse than getting all rigged out with your chain saw, ready to rip, and your saw won't start. Your ports and jets have been clogged by residue released by the ethanol in your fuel, a solvent. So you haul your saw down to the mechanic, cursing ethanol the whole way.

Ethanol is despised and resented. In 2014 the New Hampshire House overwhelmingly passed HB 1220, which would have reduced the ethanol in New Hampshire gasoline. It was a futile gesture, but a sign of the anger people feel toward this junk.  

Ethanol is different than almost any other government boondoggle, in that everyday Americans have to put up with it on a daily basis. Some government handouts, such as those to Rubio's favorite, Big Sugar, are easy to ignore. You pay an extra nickel when you buy a bag of sugar -- big deal. But a whole lot of people, working class people, actually hate ethanol, in ways that coastal elites don't understand.

And it is especially resented by New Hampshirites because it is a symbol of Iowan perfidy. New Hampshire voters have never asked for special treatment from the presidential candidates who compete there. There's no maple syrup support program. But as soon as Iowa butted in on New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary in 1976, the political elites of Iowa came up with the ethanol boondoggle, and demanded that presidential candidates support it.  

This doesn't sit well in New Hampshire.

Because it's more, of course, than just ethanol. It's craven politicians seeking the White House, in the first state they compete in, whoring for the votes of a special interest that the rest of the country is forced to put up with. It's corporate welfare in general. It's the poster child of the Washington cabal, which is so intensely despised. It's what's wrong with the Republican Party, and the country.

New Hampshire is famously skeptical of candidates fresh off a win in Iowa, with Huckabee and Santorum the most recent examples. (Part of the explanation for McCain's New Hampshire win in 2008 was his refusal to even compete in Iowa. He opposed ethanol, and figured that doomed him there. His bet paid off in New Hampshire.) Some portion of this skepticism can be traced to ethanol. Unlike the thrifty Yankees of New Hampshire, Iowans have cleverly used their primacy in the nomination process to secure a special benefit to themselves: ethanol. To a lot of New Hampshire voters, ethanol is a tangible symbol of everything that's wrong with the Iowa caucuses.

But if Cruz wins those caucuses it's different story. He will not have been cowed by the ethanol lobby. He will have defied Big Corn and its entrenched political machine. Rewarding him for an Iowa win would be entirely different than giving a leg up to Huckabee or Santorum, who only won Iowa by catering to crony capitalism, Hawkeye style.

Cruz, on the other hand, can rightfully proclaim himself as the one candidate in the last 40 years who has gone into Iowa and stood down one of the most notorious special interest ripoffs in American politics.

And, of course, it's even bigger than all that. It's who do you trust to actually do the right thing in Washington? Donald Trump has gone so far as to pimp himself to Iowa audiences as their man on ethanol. This is one he may have to pay for. It reveals him as a shallow opportunist, for all to see.  

If Cruz does win Iowa it will have been accomplished in the teeth of furious opposition from the ethanol lobby. No Republican has ever won there without kowtowing to Big Corn. Of the twelve Republicans still standing, only two -- Cruz and Paul -- have had the courage to denounce ethanol as the ridiculous boondoggle that it is. All the other candidates earned a "good" rating. As a consequence, Cruz, as the frontrunner, will soon face a barrage of negative ads from America's Renewable Future and other ethanol apologists.

For Big Corn, Cruz is an existential threat, who must be stopped at all costs. If a candidate can oppose them, and still win the Iowa caucuses, the political coalition supporting ethanol collapses. If Cruz were actually elected the end of this fiasco would be near.

Rock chalk, Jay hawk. Then live free or die.

Fritz Pettyjohn was Chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, in 1979-1980, is a Co-founder of the Balanced Budget Amendment Task Force, and blogs daily at

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