When the political world ponders which issues will matter most on Election Day, it's pretty easy to come up with a laundry list: jobs, economic growth, health care, foreign policy, immigration, etc.
But let's not forget energy -- or more specifically, a specific alternative energy program that carries quite a bit of political significance.
Monday's headline in the Des Moines Register seems destined to echo throughout Iowa until Election Day: "Lines now drawn on wind tax credit: Romney opposes it, Obama favors it."
Rarely in presidential politics can such dichotomic declarations be made without the accompaniment of asterisks galore. But in this case, it was appropriate; the difference is truly cut and dried. On the question of extending the wind production tax credit -- an important issue for Iowans because of the roughly 7,000 jobs tied to the state's wind-energy industry -- the two candidates have made their positions perfectly (and diametrically) clear: Obama supports it and Romney does not.
On the surface, it's just one of many issues on which President Obama and Mitt Romney are on opposite sides. It's not even especially surprising that the Republican candidate, no longer bearing any resemblance to the previous versions of himself -- Romney used to support investments in alternative energy programs -- would take this position.
But this one carries a political punch. In particular, the swing state of Iowa loves the wind production tax credit, and Hawkeye State Republicans are not at all pleased.
Rep. Tom Latham (R-Iowa) said this week that Romney's "wrong" and the former governor's position "shows a lack of full understanding of how important the wind energy tax credit is for Iowa and our nation." Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was incredulous, saying this couldn't possibly be "the real position of the party."
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R), a Romney surrogate, said he intends to "further educate" the presidential hopeful. How diplomatic of him.
This is a position that may well push Iowa closer to Obama, but let's not forget that it's not the only swing state that cares about the issue.
Coloradans are watching closely, too.
Three of the four Colorado House Republicans who signed a letter earlier this year pushing for the extension of the wind energy production tax credit say they still support it -- though their presidential hopeful said he didn't.
Vestas CEO Vestas CEO Ditlev Engel said that if the tax credit is not extended, the company may have to lay off most of its Colorado workers. The company, which has facilities in Brighton and Windsor in addition to Pueblo, employs about 1,700 people in Colorado.
Eight out of nine of Colorado's Congressional delegation signed a letter to Congressional leadership in February urging the wind energy tax credit extension.
Romney's position isn't just theoretical, either. The existing wind production tax credit expires at the end of the year, and though there was bipartisan support for its extension, Romney's announcement this week derailed the proposal -- many Republicans decided to take their cues from their ostensible party leader.
Both Iowa and Colorado are considered battleground states, and polls show Obama and Romney competitive in both. An issue like this can shift thousands of votes, which may well make the difference between victory and defeat.