Romney's wind energy stance puts him at odds with key Iowa Republicans

ByHolly Bailey
August 7, 2012, 3:54 PM

— -- DES MOINES—When Mitt Romney arrives here for a fundraiser with local Republicans Tuesday evening, one topic sure to come up could put his efforts to win Iowa this November at serious risk.

Last week, as Romney was winding up a rocky overseas tour, his campaign made front-page news here when a spokesman for the GOP candidate told the Des Moines Register Romney opposes a renewal of a tax credit for wind energy suppliers, which is set to expire at the end of this year.

"He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits," Romney spokesman Shawn McCoy told the Register.

It's a stance that isn't surprising, given that Romney regularly mocks President Barack Obama's investments in green energy as a waste of time and money when the nation faces both an energy and fiscal crisis.

But McCoy's comments immediately caused a stir in Iowa, which is home to more wind energy jobs than any other state in the country. And it unsettled many of Romney's top supporters here, who publicly complained they had been caught off guard by his campaign's policy decision.

On Capitol Hill, Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley trashed the former Massachusetts governor's campaign for not talking to him first. "Nobody consulted us on this," Grassley told Roll Call.

Meanwhile, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad suggested in an interview with Radio Iowa's O. Kay Henderson that "a bunch of east coast people" were behind Romney's position. Like Grassley, Branstad said he wanted to speak to Romney directly so that he could be "educated" on wind energy, which he noted has strong bipartisan support in the state.

"I understand why they are very critical of the whole thing that was done by the Obama Administration with regard to the stimulus and some of the money that was wasted on Solyndra and some of these green energy projects didn't make sense," Branstad told Radio Iowa. "The tax credit, however, is a much different thing, and it way preceded Obama, and it was actually something that Sen. Grassley authored and has made a real difference over time."

But a week later, Romney has given no public indication he's rethinking his position. Asked if Romney's stance had changed amid concerns from Iowa Republicans, the campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

The issue has put some Iowa Republicans in an awkward spot. Ahead of Romney's visit, many state Republican operatives declined to comment when asked how the presumptive nominee's stance might play with voters here in November.

Meanwhile, both Branstad and Grassley, who had been listed as hosts of Romney's fundraiser at a local country club here tonight, are now expected to be no-shows.

A spokeswoman for Grassley told Yahoo News the Iowa senator is traveling in another part of the state meeting with voters and had not yet spoken to Romney about the issue. Branstad also cited a scheduling conflict—though he told the Quad City Times in an interview Monday that he and other Iowa Republicans still hoped to change Romney's mind before the tax credit expires.

"When it's expired in the past, we've seen the growth of this industry dramatically reduced, so we think it needs to be extended again, and we're hopeful that indeed the Congress will and future President Romney will sign it," Branstad said.

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