Mitt Romney Supports Ethanol Subsidies, Opposes Tim Pawlenty's 'Hard Truth'

ABC News’ Emily Friedman ( @emilyabc ) & Matthew Jaffe ( @jaffematt ) report:

Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty are at odds on one of the biggest issues to voters in Iowa, home of the nation’s first presidential caucuses.

Ethanol - and government subsidies for it - are historically a sacred cow in the Hawkeye state.

Earlier this week Pawlenty – as part of his campaign based on telling “hard truths” – said in Des Moines that it is time to start phasing out ethanol subsidies.

“We need to phase out subsidies across all sources of energy and all industries, including ethanol,” Pawlenty said. “We simply can't afford them anymore. Some people will be upset by what I'm saying. Conventional wisdom says you can't talk about ethanol in Iowa or Social Security in Florida or financial reform on Wall Street. But someone has to say it. Someone has to finally stand up and level with the American people. Someone has to lead - I will.”

The former Minnesota governor’s stance surprised some, but for the most part it won praise from conservatives. One GOP operative applauded for Pawlenty for “a really gutsy move.”

But Romney, in his first trip to Iowa today, took an opposing point of view.

Bombarded with questions following his talk at the Greater Des Moines Partnership’s Presidential Forum Speaker Series, the former Massachusetts governor told the gaggle of press and fans today that he supports the production of ethanol.

“I support the subsidy of ethanol,” said Romney, working his way through the Des Moines crowd, where he shook hands and doled out autographs. “I believe it’s an important part of our energy solution in this country.”

The ethanol debate is likely to be the first of many opposing policies the two GOP presidential hopefuls will have as they battle for the nomination.

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