-- Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., also tries to strike a balance. Thune, from a Midwestern state, has supported ethanol issues in the past. At an in-state event earlier this month, Thune told South Dakotans that opposition was mounting to the federal ethanol subsidy in and out of Congress, but he promoted "an increase in the ethanol market, more flex fuel vehicles and an increase in blender pumps installed across the country," according to a newspaper account. Thune also voted for a one-year extension of the subsidy last month. Among 2008 GOP candidates considering another run at the presidency, both former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee were supporters of the ethanol subsidy. Huckabee and Romney finished first and second, respectively, in the 2008 Iowa caucuses. On the other hand, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the party's 2008 nominee despite a fourth-place finish in Iowa, has always opposed ethanol subsidies. Still, McCain softened his stance a bit, calling ethanol a "vital, vital alternative energy source" during a campaign stop in the Midwest in 2006. But just last week, McCain -- with his final national campaign behind him -- mentioned ethanol subsidies among the sacred cows he would seek to cut in order to reduce the federal budget deficit, in an interview on CBS's "Face the Nation." "Ethanol is a joke," said McCain.
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