Romney Actually Lost to Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses (by 34 Votes!)

A certified new vote count from Iowa shows Republican Rick Santorum -- and not his rival Mitt Romney -- won the state's crucial caucuses, but results from eight precincts are missing, a local newspaper reported Thursday. 

A final total shows conservative Christian candidate Santorum beat Romney, the frontrunner in the Republican battle for the right to challenge Democratic President Barack Obama in November's election, by 34 votes, according to the Des Moines Register.

The paper cited local party officials in revealing the new figures, which jibe with the original vote result that had Romney nipping Santorum by just eight votes.

But the new certified count has a major asterisk by its side, as any one of the eight unknown precincts could have given Romney a winning margin, so the victor will never be known for sure, it said.

After a late night of vote counting following the January 3 caucuses Romney had been declared the victor, beating Santorum by an unprecedented razor-thin margin of eight votes, boosting the former Massachusetts governor's frontrunner status.

But tallies from across the large Midwestern state continued to trickle in, and as officials chased down vote results from dozens of late precincts, Romney's lead evaporated. Eight days after the caucuses, Santorum had a tiny lead.

By the Wednesday deadline for reporting, results from eight precincts were missing.

Chad Olsen, executive director of the Republican Party in Iowa, said party leaders will likely never know the results from those precincts because they never had the official election result forms, the Register reported.

"It's a split decision," Olsen said.

After Iowa, Romney went on to win the New Hampshire primary by a decisive margin the following week, and it was seen as the first time since 1976 that a non-incumbent Republican has won the first two contests in the race to win the presidential nomination.

He was hoping to capitalize on that momentum Saturday in South Carolina, where a third straight victory would put him undisputedly on the way to winning the nomination battle, but his rivals -- especially Santorum -- were likely to argue that the new Iowa results show the race is still up for grabs.

"It will be a story and Santorum will seize upon it, but it won't change the current political narrative," Iowa Republican operative John Stineman told the Register.

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has closed in on Romney in opinion polls following a strong debate performance in South Carolina on Monday, and Santorum is popular among evangelicals in the socially conservative southeastern state.

Romney has long been the frontrunner in the race to win the chance to take on Obama who is seeking reelection, but has yet to rally a majority of Republicans behind his candidacy.

Many conservatives remain suspicious of Romney over his record as governor of a left-leaning state, and the multi-millionaire former venture capitalist has recently been dogged by charges he is out of touch with ordinary Americans.

Agence France-Presse / By

Posted at January 19, 2012, 3:46am

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