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The Gazette KCRG
Posted January 4, 2012
Romney edges Santorum by 8 votes

Republican presidential candidate, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is joined by his wife Karen as he waves to supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2012, in Johnston, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

 

DES MOINES – Republicans Mitt Romney edged Rick Santorum by eight votes in what was a two-way, see-saw battle at the top of the leader board Tuesday in one of the closest Iowa presidential caucus finishes since the first-in-the-nation format started in the 1970s.

With 100 percent of 1,774 precincts reporting, Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, were tied at 25 percent, while Texas Rep.  Ron Paul was a close third with 21 percent of the caucus participants.

Trailing the leaders were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 13 percent, Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 10 percent, Minnesota  Rep. Michele Bachmann at 5 percent and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman with 1 percent.

The potential for a photo finish was 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. He was competing against two rivals who brought carry-over organizations from 2008 into this year’s campaign.

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.

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’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.

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.

Perry, 61, the other Texan in the field, had said he has the money and organization foundation to stay in the race, although he planned to bypass next week’s primary in New Hampshire to focus on the first-in-the-South primary in South Carolina. However, he gave indications that he may be returning to Texas to re-assess his campaign in light on Tuesday’s outcome.

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.

2 Responses to Romney edges Santorum by 8 votes

  1. At 9 p.m. Tuesday , Paul, 76, a Texas congressman, Santorum, 53, a former Pennsylvania senator, and Romney, 64, a former Massachusetts governor, are tied in a dead heat at 23 percent each.

    Paul 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.

    I wish I could vote on you un-named “political experts” too.

    I don’t think the majority of Americans will forget ObamaCare and RomneyCare. Keep it up Ron Paul, the Constitution will win.

  2. Let’s go Ron Paul!!!!!!

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