Romney Wins Iowa Caucus, Santorum “Wins” Iowa Caucus

Politics   Steven Ertelt   Jan 4, 2012   |   3:07AM    Des Moines, IA

Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney essentially tied tonight in the Iowa caucuses with a showing that will elevate their standing in the race for the Republican nomination to replace pro-abortion President Barack Obama.

Together they may now represent the upper echelon of candidates after bouncing back and forth for the lead much of the night.

The final vote count is expected, according to media reports, to show Romney will have won Iowa by 8 votes once the final precinct is officially counted, though both the Romney and Santorum campaigns agree on the unofficial vote tally.

Romney and Santorum both captured 25% of the vote of the more than 120,000 Republicans who gathered across the first presidential battleground state to cast their ballots for their favorite candidate to take the GOP against Obama in November. Ron Paul placed third with 21%.

The top three may emerge from Iowa as a top-tier grouping of candidates with the three second-tier candidates, Rick Perry, Newt Gingrich, and Michele Bachmann looking to states like New Hampshire and South Carolina to boost their campaigns should they stay in the race. Gingrich finished with 13%, Perry with 10% and Bachman with 5%. Jon Huntsman came in last place with the backing of less than 1% of Republicans.

During his speech after the vote, Santorum re-asserted his pro-life theme and said, “What motivates me: the dignity of every human life.” Romney talked about the need to change the occupant of the White House from Obama to someone who wants the best for the country and the leadership to get it back on track.

The race was close throughout the evening as the lead went back and forth between Romney and Santorum.

Now, looking ahead, Gingrich says he plans to stay in the race. Gingrich said the race for the GOP nomination was just beginning. He vowed to go on and said he is the candidate to create change. He congratulated two other contenders — Rick Santorum and Ron Paul — but said he will air contrasts between himself and Romney.

Bachmann did not say whether she would leave the race but her campaign manager indicated that may be forthcoming. He says it’s hard to tell whether she will continue her campaign after a bleak showing in the Iowa caucuses.

Keith Nahigian told The Associated Press, “I don’t know yet.” He added, “It’s hard to tell, but everything is planned.”

Perry said he would be heading back to Texas to reassess his standing in the presidential race and where to go from here.

“With a little prayer and reflection I’m going to decide the best path forward,” he said.

A pre-caucus poll conducted by CNN showed younger voters favored Paul while older voters backed Romney. Also, first-time caucus voters supported the Texas congressman while voters who have attended a caucus in the past supported the former Massachusetts governor. Republican voters tended to favor Romney while independents lined up behind Paul.

The survey also found the most conservative voters favored Santorum, somewhat conservative voters backed Romney and moderate or liberal voters supported Paul.

While the poor state of the economy will likely dominate the general election between the eventual nominee and Obama, the CNN poll found 10 percent of Iowa Republicans still said abortion was their number one issue. It did not have a breakdown to show which candidates received the strongest support of those most pro-life voters.