If you're looking for a sign that ethanol subsidies are becoming a bigger wedge issue for Republicans, Jon Huntsman just sent one.

This week, the former Utah governor and former U.S. ambassador to China said he doesn’t plan to take part in the 2012 Iowa Caucus because he knows “how the politics work there.” Ethanol subsidies continue to emerge as a wedge issue that Republicans have to dance around if they want to compete in Iowa.

Candidates Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney have stuck to their guns by supporting the subsidies, which is likely to play well during the Iowa caucuses. Others have boldly gone where John McCain went in 2008: coming out publicly against ethanol subsidies. McCain finished fourth in Iowa in 2008 but held on to win the Republican nomination. But the Huntsman approach is intriguing — just don’t show up.

Huntsman, who hasn’t officially entered the race for president, is banking on being able to recover from a lack of momentum in Iowa. If he doesn’t compete in Iowa, he is likely to let the other candidates do their ethanol dances while he watches from a distance. If the plan works out, Huntsman will limit the hedging he would have to do to compete in Iowa and, instead, focus on other early contests like South Carolina, New Hampshire and Nevada, none of which grow much corn.

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