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Eye On 2012? Palin Pushes Ethanol While In Iowa

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A couple curious moments occurred on the campaign trail today, both involving Sarah Palin.

The Alaska Gov. was dispatched to Iowa, a state that almost every political observer agrees is beyond the McCain campaign's reach. Why McCain is spending time and resources there is a mystery perhaps only explained by more favorably looking internal poll numbers.

During her speech, however, Palin offered what a Democratic observer pinpointed as a telling public nod to what is -- at least in the McCain campaign -- a lightening-rod of a policy.

"John and I will adopt the all-of-the-above approach to meet America's great energy challenges," she told the crowd in Des Moines. "Yes... That means harnessing alternative energy sources, like the wind and the solar and the biomass and the geothermal -- and the ethanol!"

Iowa, of course, is ground zero for corn-based ethanol production. And support for that energy source is a must for any presidential aspirant. Just ask John McCain, whose criticism of corn-based ethanol cost him dearly in the state's presidential primaries in 2000 and 2008. While the Senator has tempered some of his skepticism, as recently as the last presidential debate he was calling for the end of subsidies for ethanol (citing the distortion they have on the market) and the elimination of a tariff on "sugar cane-based ethanol from Brazil" - an alternative that is not exactly popular on the streets of Des Moines. In fact, on his own website, McCain's policy is listed as such:

"We need to level the playing field and eliminate mandates, subsidies, tariffs and price supports that focus exclusively on corn-based ethanol and prevent the development of market-based solutions which would provide us with better options for our fuel needs."

So what's Palin doing in Iowa, championing ethanol? Either she wasn't being specific in the type of ethanol or energy policy she supports. Or, perhaps, she is laying the groundwork for a political push in the state... either in 2008 or, perhaps, 2012.