There are too many current poll results at this point to ignore the impression that the GOP nomination battle in the early states is currently coming down to two people: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. The one place where Cruz may be in the lead is Iowa, and that’s something of a head scratcher for those who follow the conventional rules of political warfare. The Texas Senator has come out time and time again in opposition to the Renewable Fuel Standard and ethanol subsidies (well… all subsidies to be honest) and that’s generally considered to be the equivalent of signing your own death warrant in Iowa. Investors Business Daily takes note of that this week, describing Cruz’s campaign in the corn fields as a profile in courage.

Ethanol has long been the dead man’s pass of presidential politics: No one makes it through Iowa without paying homage to the corn-based fuel now a $5 billion state industry. But this year may be different.

Ted Cruz is leading the Republican polls in the Hawkeye State despite his opposition to the federal mandate requiring gasoline to be blended with 10% ethanol. He considers the mandate to be a form of corporate welfare — which it is…

Iowa produces nearly 30% of the nation’s ethanol. So it’s no surprise that the Renewable Fuels Association is running ads warning voters that Cruz is bad for Iowa farmers, and why pro-ethanol critics will trail him in an RV as he begins a six-day bus tour of the state this week.

As on other issues, Cruz’s position on ethanol contrasts with other politicians too willing to throw their free-market principles out the window when their buses pull into Cedar Rapids and Des Moines.

Reading through the entire piece I have to wonder if Cruz hasn’t taken a page out of Trump’s book this year and realized something which the rest of us have missed for a very long time now. We all know how politics is supposed to work, right? (Particularly at the national level.) There are rules one must follow or you are doomed to failure. It’s how the system works. But Trump seemed to have figured out that the rule book was largely a relic of the past before he even stepped in the ring. And at least in Iowa, Cruz is essentially the only one to have taken the same approach.

Everyone: “You can’t win Iowa without the support of the Renewable Fuels Association.”

Cruz: “Oh, really? Let’s put that theory to the test.”

Even if he takes first place in Iowa, Ted Cruz will face some tough sledding in the states that follow, but he will have shaken up the game permanently. If someone with a solid conservative record can come hit the trail there and tell people hard truths about government subsidies and still come out on top, the ethanol lobby is going to be left bleeding in the ditch alongside the political highway. That doesn’t mean that King Corn is going to go quietly into that good night, though. They have staked out the battle lines against Cruz and are dumping a ton of money into the effort to defeat him. (Bloomberg)

“Ted Cruz is dangerous to Iowa and thousands of Iowa jobs,” Eric Branstad, the group’s leader and the son of Iowa’s Republican governor, Terry Branstad, said in a statement. Referring to the Renewable Fuels Standard, a federal mandate on the amount of ethanol required in gasoline, the statement continued: “Our economy depends on a strong RFS, and Iowans count on $5 billion in wages thanks to it. Ted Cruz wants to kill their jobs, and we are going to make sure every Iowan knows that.”

Cruz was one of only two candidates rated “bad” by the group. The other was U.S. Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who has said he considers federal support for biofuels a form of corporate welfare. A bad rating was given to candidates who “stood against Iowa farmers and the RFS.”

The ethanol lobby has been on the air with radio and television ads as well as direct mail campaigns trying to stop Cruz since he began his serious climb in the polls in early December. Despite all of that, Cruz is still sitting at either number one or number two in the Iowa polls, depending who you ask. So, the exit question for the morning follows: is this another place where what we thought we knew about politics was just wrong? Or, much like Trump, does Cruz have some sort of magic mojo that gives him a pass to do things which would still sink other candidates? Or to put it another way, has the game been changed entirely now or are Trump and Cruz simply the exceptions which prove the rule?

CruzPoints