DES MOINES --- Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has won the Iowa Republican caucuses by 8 votes over former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, state GOP officials said early today, in one of the closest Iowa presidential caucus finishes since the first-in-the-nation format started in the 1970s.

Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn declared Romney the winner shortly after 1:30 a.m. today. Strawn said Romney got 30,015 votes and Santorum received 30,007 votes. That is a margin of eight votes.

Romney's top-tier finish in a state where he campaigned little until late in the process put him in a formidable position heading into next week's New Hampshire primary - where he enjoys frontrunner status in public-opinion polls.

However, a very close second-place finish was seen by many political observers as a major victory for Santorum, 53, who polled in single digits in December before making a late surge by tapping into Iowa's network of social and religious conservatives who hold considerable sway in Iowa's Republican Party.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul was a close third with 21 percent of the caucus participants, in what his campaign also hailed as a victory.

Trailing the leaders were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 13 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 10 percent, Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 1 percent. After Tuesday's balloting, Perry, 61, said he planned to return to Texas to "assess whether this is the path" forward in light of his fifth-place finish.

Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, was competing against two rivals, Romney and Paul, who brought carry-over organizations from 2008 into this year's campaign.

"Thank you so much, Iowa," Santorum told his supporters at a victory celebration at a Johnston conference center. He said that by standing up, not compromising and providing bold leadership, Tuesday marked "the first step in taking back this country."

Aided by strong hands-on retail politicking at 381 events in all 99 Iowa counties and timely endorsements from Iowa pro-family leaders Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley, Santorum attracted a healthy share of the late-breaking undecided social and evangelical conservatives to leap-frog Gingrich, Perry and Bachmann.

"It's phenomenal," said Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad. "Santorum, look how many counties he carried. Going to all 99 counties was a good strategy. And I think he had a better organization of people to turn out the vote and to speak on his behalf at the caucuses."

Santorum dominated the rural counties, while Romney carried the urban counties of Polk, Linn, Scott, Johnson, Dubuque, Pottawattamie and Story. Paul carried Black Hawk County.

Santorum's stock rose in the run-up to the caucuses as he touted himself as a full-spectrum conservative with strong "faith, family and freedom" credentials, foreign policy experience and a track record of being effective in Washington without compromising his pro-life, pro-marriage and limited government principles.

However, rivals challenged Santorum's conservative resume over his support for earmarked federal spending and his electability given that he lacks money and organizational infrastructure as the GOP nominating battle moves east.

Romney, 64, who finished second in Iowa four years ago, hoped to capitalize on a split among Iowa's influential bloc of social and religious conservatives to snatch a Hawkeye State victory.

Criticized for ignoring Iowa through much of campaign season, Romney made a major push for Iowans' support in the closing weeks by ratcheting up his TV commercials and personal appearances to reinvigorate a still-active organizational base of established party activists.

Romney was aided by a barrage of surrogate attack ads that knocked the wind out of Gingrich's political sails after a series of strong debate showings re-launched him as a serious threat to capture Iowa votes.

Gingrich's prediction of an upset victory Tuesday night did not materialize, but the former speaker pledged to press on and zero in specifically on Romney in New Hampshire and the states that follow in the GOP presidential nominating process.

As a precursor of things to come, Gingrich, 68, unleashed a scathing attack on Romney as Iowans were preparing to deliver their verdicts, calling on his rival to "just level with the American people" about his moderate political views and accusing him of lying and being disingenuous about large sums of money that a Super PAC spent attacking Gingrich on Romney's behalf.

Democrats immediately pounced on Romney as well, saying he managed to "crawl over the finish line" after campaigning for five years against a relatively weak GOP field with the support of only about one out of every four Iowa Republicans.

"I think we've been watching an ‘anybody but Romney' campaign unfold before our eyes," said Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, D-Fla., chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee, who described the just-finished Iowa campaign as Republicans' "circular firing squad."

"Romney's entire candidacy has been a charade. He's turned into more shapes and forms than the Wonder Twins," Wasserman-Schultz told an Iowa news conference. "He's leaving Iowa with significant primary baggage that will weigh him down in the general election."

Paul, 76, managed a top-tier finish through the help of fiscal conservatives who embraced his call to cut federal spending, revamp the nation's tax and financial policies and reduce the national debt, and support from young people and libertarians who liked his views on foreign policy and personal freedoms.

The Texas congressman attracted large crowds and spent considerable time campaigning in Iowa while building a highly structured organization of devoted followers, although political experts questioned whether he could sustain the effort as the campaign moves forward.

Bachmann -- upset winner in the Ames straw poll last August - failed to generate a hoped-for "miracle" in Tuesday's balloting despite help from an array of pastors, social conservatives and tea party activists and her standing as a native Iowan. A victim of the fragmentation of the conservative vote, Bachmann, 55, pledged to turn her focus to upcoming debates in New Hampshire and the prospects on getting her campaign back on track in South Carolina on Jan. 21.

 

Live Results

On caucus night, we will be providing a map showing county-by-county results from the GOP race as they trickle in after 7 p.m. The map is being provided by the Republican Party of Iowa.





Caucus locations

Looking for you caucus location? Check out our map of caucus spots in Iowa. To find your caucus location, click here.





More coverage:

- Live Coverage:
We will be having a live chat and video of the action on caucus night.

- Caucusing in Black Hawk County:
Here's what you need to know about caucusing in Black Hawk County.

(9) comments

Think
Think

What's wrong with this picture? 3,000,000 people in this State and only 100,000 vote! This outdated old fashioned caucus has to go. You get one hour to vote. What about people who work nights, attend school etc? Then the votes which were not a ballot but a piece of paper disappear into back rows. Anyone ever watched a magician? I don't buy the results. I also think that denying people the right to vote due to the one hour frame should be checked into to see if this is even legal.

jakenichols
jakenichols

interesting link I found for all of you Romney "supporters" http://smartgirlpolitics.ning.com/profiles/blogs/does-mitt-romney-really-own-the-des-moines-register

Mitt Romney endorses himself in the Register, o wow.

This man is a fraud, only person with actual integrity that isn't a warmonger, a deficit financier, or a wall street shill is RON PAUL, how is everyone sooooooo dummmmmb?

LiberallyConservative
LiberallyConservative

[quote]Think said: "What's wrong with this picture? 3,000,000 people in this State and only 100,000 vote! This outdated old fashioned caucus has to go. You get one hour to vote. What about people who work nights, attend school etc? Then the votes which were not a ballot but a piece of paper disappear into back rows. Anyone ever watched a magician? I don't buy the results. I also think that denying people the right to vote due to the one hour frame should be checked into to see if this is even legal. "[/quote]

Not like people couldn't take time off work or school if this is so important to them. Although people that care that much about politics shouldn't have an opinion anyway.

slipstream
slipstream

I agree with 'Think'. We need a primary where absentee ballots would be available. We need a real election, not a small group session or a town hall meeting.

Think
Think

[quote]LiberallyConservative said: "Not like people couldn't take time off work or school if this is so important to them. Although people that care that much about politics shouldn't have an opinion anyway."[/quote]

Try telling that to the FD, PD, any hospital or Deere or Viking Pump. Are you just that foolish? Still use Western Union?

darkangel
darkangel

[quote]LiberallyConservative said: "Not like people couldn't take time off work or school if this is so important to them. Although people that care that much about politics shouldn't have an opinion anyway."[/quote]

You stated "Although people that care that much about politics shouldn't have an opinion anyway." Are you completely nuts? What is that supposed to mean?

Think is right! We have now had about 3% of our population, make a decision for all of us! Seriously people? Do you not care about your children's and/or your grand-children's future? Let alone your own!

My husband and I also attended the caucus. This was my first as I just moved to Iowa 3 years ago. I've never seen something so crazy. And when I told my family and friends about my experience, they now think I'm living in the stone age.

This caucus business is purely insane. You have to be in the door by 7:00pm. If you come at 7:01, you are turned away. This makes it impossible for some to participate. Our son had to work last night and his boss wouldn't let him go, so he couldn't vote. Isn't this one of our rights as Americans? So no LC, not everyone can change their schedules to go vote for a specific one hour period. There may be some college courses that run at night that don't allow absences. We have friends who are single parents with young children that go to sleep at 7:00. Sure, they could get a babysitter. But guess what, then the babysitter can't vote! If you work 2nd shift and have to get someone to cover if you take off, that person can't vote! Do you not see the absurdity of this? Wake up Iowa and get with the times!

tllorenz
tllorenz

[quote]slipstream said: "I agree with 'Think'. We need a primary where absentee ballots would be available. We need a real election, not a small group session or a town hall meeting."[/quote]
Slipstream, Primary is for those who make the effort to be involved deciding the candidate for the party. Inform yourself and work for your candidate. My family didn't want to go out and vote and work in the primary but did, were you there?

tllorenz
tllorenz

[quote]Think said: "What's wrong with this picture? 3,000,000 people in this State and only 100,000 vote! This outdated old fashioned caucus has to go. You get one hour to vote. What about people who work nights, attend school etc? Then the votes which were not a ballot but a piece of paper disappear into back rows. Anyone ever watched a magician? I don't buy the results. I also think that denying people the right to vote due to the one hour frame should be checked into to see if this is even legal. "[/quote]
You're not thinking, you're surmising, you're imagining. You've not made effort or planned ahead to be involved in a primary. Why have you not made the effort to understand what a primary is? Lazy is as lazy does. It's best some are not involved and that's the way it is with any important activity. Informing yourself is effort.

Think
Think

[quote]tllorenz said: "You're not thinking, you're surmising, you're imagining. You've not made effort or planned ahead to be involved in a primary. Why have you not made the effort to understand what a primary is? Lazy is as lazy does. It's best some are not involved and that's the way it is with any important activity. Informing yourself is effort."[/quote]

So you think it's fine that 3% of the people vote due to this obsolete process? No point trying to wake you up. I just have pity for the people denied a vote to represent them. Maybe time for a lawsuit to challenge this obsolete mentality.

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