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January 04. 2012 1:36AM

Romney edges Santorum by 8 votes in Iowa caucuses; on to NH


Republican Presidential candidates Rick Santorum, left, and Mitt Romney, speak to supporters following Tuesday night's Iowa caucuses. (REUTERS/John Gress (left) and Brian Snyder)

Mitt Romney edged Rick Santorum by a razor-thin margin of eight votes in Tuesday's Iowa Republican caucuses, a party official said early Wednesday morning.

According to Reuters, Iowa Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn said Romney, the former Massachusetts governor, collected 30,015 votes to 30,007 for Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania. A total of 122,225 votes were cast in the first contest to select a party nominee to run against Democratic incumbent President Barack Obama.

On Tuesday, voters go to the polls in New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation Presidential Primary.

Santorum, who invested heavily in campaigning in Iowa over the last several weeks, is the latest candidate to catch a wave of popularity during the Republican primary race.

Santorum and Romney, each with 25 percent of the vote, both claimed victory in respective speeches to supporters shortly after midnight, though full results were not available until 2:30 a.m. Eastern time.

Introducing her husband for his speech, Romney's wife, Ann, noted, “We don't know who's won yet.”

Romney credited Santorum for his showing in the caucuses, then launched into a speech criticizing President Obama, saying his term has been a “failed Presidency” and adding the election was “about the soul of America,” a theme he has used many times in the campaign.

“You know, (Obama) said three years ago, after being inaugurated, ... he said, ‘Look, if I can't get this economy turned around in three years, I'll be looking at at one-term proposition,' And we are here to collect,” Romney said.

Santorum, now a top-tier candidate heading into New Hampshire, was buoyant in addressing his supporters.

"Game on," he said to cheers and chants of "We pick Rick."

U.S. Rep. Ron Paul of Texas was in a close third, with 25,307 votes.

“There's going to be an election next week in New Hampshire and this momentum will continue. This momentum will continue and we will keep scoring,” Paul said in an address to supporters in Ankeny, Iowa. “We're going to be ready and raring to move on to the next step, which is New Hampshire.”

While Romney has maintained his position at the top or near the top of polls and Paul has consistently placed in the top three since the race began, other challengers have had roller coaster rides.

After announcing her candidacy in June during a debate at Saint Anselm College in Goffstown, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota got an early surge and won an Iowa straw poll, but her numbers have tumbled since then. She campaigned heavily in Iowa leading up to the caucuses, but among major candidates was in front of only Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. He has focused his campaign on next week's New Hampshire primary, and did not travel to Iowa Tuesday.

Bachmann, in a speech at West Des Moines, said she would be continuing her campaign.

“I believe I am that true conservative who can beat (President) Barack Obama,” she said.

Texas Gov. Rick Perry got the next boost after announcing his candidacy in New Hampshire in August, but poor debate performances and questions over campaign ads saw his numbers plummet. While he also focused on Iowa recently, he was in fifth in the caucuses.

He announced Tuesday that he would return to Texas to "reassess" his campaign, but stopped short of withdrawing his candidacy.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich saw a spike in his poll numbers after receiving the endorsement of the New Hampshire Union Leader in November, but his numbers dipped in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's caucuses. He came in fourth.

“This is the beginning of an extraordinarily important campaign,” Gingrich said in an address in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gingrich also congratulated Santorum.

“He waged a great, positive campaign,” Gingrich said.

He further congratulated Paul, but criticized the Texas congressman's views on foreign policy as “dangerous” and called Romney a “Massachusetts moderate” who would not bring to the White House the same conservative values he would.

He also committed to run a positive campaign.


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