Texas Governor Rick Perry, seeking to recharge his struggling White House campaign, called for an end to all federal energy subsidies as he appeared at a forum in Iowa to field questions about jobs, taxes and the economy.
Perry said today his opposition includes an extension of federal tax credits for the wind energy industry that benefit Iowa, one of the nation’s top wind-producing states.
“The federal government needs to be completely out of the energy business, picking winners and losers,” he said in the state that is scheduled to host the nation’s first nomination contest on Jan. 3.
As part of his call to end subsidies, Perry also mentioned ethanol, a corn-based fuel that is popular in a state with a large agriculture base. Perry said his opposition to federal subsidies includes oil and natural gas.
Perry, 61, said the one role he sees for federal dollars in the energy industry is research and development, as he kept his focus on President Barack Obama during his forum appearance.
“This president of the United States is at war with the coal industry,” he said as he pitched his energy proposals.
Perry was one of five Republican presidential candidates appearing at today’s forum at the headquarters of Vermeer Corp., a farm equipment manufacturer based in Pella, Iowa. The gathering, which allowed each candidate 15 minutes to answer questions, was moderated by Governor Terry Branstad of Iowa and Tom Hudson, a co-anchor of PBS’s “Nightly Business Report.”
Bachmann on Ethanol
Like Perry, U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota said she also supports ending ethanol subsidies.
Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of Georgia said he would support an extension of wind energy tax credits, especially if it was for a longer period of time, so that businesses could better make long-term investment decisions.
“I would like to see a minimum 10-year tax credits with a rolling annual renewal like football coaches,” he said. “That’s a pretty good model to keep people focused.”
Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania questioned whether some of the Republican candidates leading in the polls are best positioned to be their party’s nominee.
“I always remind people that the quote ’top three’ candidates for president on the Republican side all supported the Wall Street bailout,” he said. “I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing for us as a party to be going out in this election cycle with someone who supported a huge government intervention into the marketplace.”
Student Loan Forgiveness
U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas said no when he asked whether those in the Occupy Wall Street movement should be granted forgiveness for their student loans because of the troubled U.S. economy.
“It would just be more interference,” he said. “We should give them jobs, so that they can start paying that debt down.”
The forum follows the release of a poll in Iowa over the weekend that showed businessman Herman Cain and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in a statistical tie for the most support among Republicans in Iowa.
The Iowa Poll, conducted by the Des Moines Register newspaper, showed Cain with the support of 23 percent of likely caucus participants and Romney backed by 22 percent.
Cain, 65, who like Romney didn’t participate in today’s forum, is seeking to defuse any political damage resulting from reports that at least two women alleged sexually suggestive behavior on his part when he headed the National Restaurant Association during the 1990s.
Branstad discounted the importance of the reports for Cain in an interview today before the forum.
“Iowans are very fair-minded and they are going to give him the benefit of the doubt and give him an opportunity to hear his side of the story,” he said. “I don’t see that it’s going to have a big impact.”
Branstad said Iowans are more concerned about jobs than what he categorized as a personal attack.
“Anybody that’s been a high-profile person or in business knows there’s always people looking to try to take advantage of the situation and sue you or make some kind of accusation,” the governor said. “Anybody that’s been high-profile in business certainly has some empathy.”
Cain called Iowa radio station WHO-AM yesterday seeking to reassure the state’s voters about his candidacy.
“The Cain train is staying on track and we are making sure that we don’t allow these distractions from former employees and opponents to really get us off message,” he said.
After the forum, Branstad questioned the absence of some of the candidates.
“It was unfortunate that Governor Romney and Herman Cain were not here because they missed a great opportunity today,” he said. “They missed out on the opportunity to address the No. 1 issue in this campaign and that is creating jobs.”
The Iowa Poll showed that Perry has work to do in the state with the caucuses two months away. He was backed by 7 percent of likely caucus-goers in the survey, putting him in a tie with Gingrich for fifth place.
Paul was in third place with 12 percent, followed by Bachmann with 8 percent. Santorum, who has spent more time in Iowa than any other candidate, was at 5 percent, while former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman Jr., who isn’t actively competing in Iowa, had 1 percent.
The Iowa poll was conducted Oct. 23-26 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
Perry, who declared his candidacy Aug. 13, led national polls of the Republican race just five weeks ago. Since then, his standing in surveys has dropped by as much as 20 percentage points following debate performances he acknowledged were mediocre and as support for Cain has grown.
If Perry is to regain momentum, his surge most likely will have to start in Iowa, with a strong showing in the caucuses. He is scheduled to spend at least three days in the state this week. He has also started running television ads there.
Romney, 64, is taking a below-the-radar approach to Iowa as he seeks to manage expectations for his caucus performance.
In his 2008 presidential bid, after an all-out effort to win the caucuses, Romney finished second behind former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. Social conservatives who dominate turnout in the Republican caucuses balked at Romney’s past support of abortion rights and a Massachusetts health-care law he signed, and his loss helped derail his candidacy.
Iowa’s social conservatives have yet to rally around a contender in the current campaign, creating the prospect that they could divide their support among several candidates and create an opening for Romney to do well in the caucuses.
--Editors: Robin Meszoly, Justin Blum
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