Reporting from North Conway, N.H. — Prospective Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman said Saturday that he won't try to compete in the Iowa caucuses early next year.
Huntsman, responding to a voter's question, said he is opposed to federal agricultural and ethanol subsidies. Such financial support is a make-or-break issue in Iowa, which grows nearly one-fifth of the nation's corn and 15% of its soybeans.
"I'm not competing in Iowa for a reason. I don't believe in subsidies that prop up corn, soybeans" and ethanol, he said.
The ex-governor of Utah and former U.S. ambassador to China said subsidies "distort the global marketplace" and lead to food inflation.
"We will be competing vigorously here, in South Carolina and Florida," Huntsman told a small gathering of Republicans at the North Conway Grand Hotel. "I probably won't be spending a lot of time in Iowa. I understand how the politics work there."
Iowa would have been a challenge for Huntsman, who is viewed with suspicion by some conservatives because of past support for policies relating to climate change, immigration and civil unions. Also, Huntsman, like former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, is a Mormon, and some of the evangelical voters who dominate the Iowa GOP caucuses were skeptical of Romney's 2008 bid in part because of his religious beliefs.
Huntsman demurred when asked whether his religion played a role in his decision to forgo Iowa. "I think it's more a function of our deployable troops and resources … and how those are best allocated and appropriated," he said during an interview.
Although Huntsman has not formally declared himself a candidate, the interview and every statement he made to New Hampshire voters Saturday made the prospect seem likely.
"We are moving inexorably in that direction," Huntsman said.