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Santorum Led Iowa Caucuses by 34 Votes, Republicans Say

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Photographer: John W. Adkisson/Getty Images
Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum. Photographer: John W. Adkisson/Getty Images

Jan. 19 (Bloomberg) -- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum finished the Iowa caucuses 34 votes ahead of Mitt Romney, who previously was declared the winner, the state party said.

The Iowa Republican Party released the certified results more than two weeks after the Jan. 3 voting. The party said certified totals were unavailable for eight precincts.

Romney, 64, called the result a “virtual tie” in a statement that recognized Santorum’s “strong performance.” He said the caucuses were a “great start” to the party’s efforts to defeat President Barack Obama in 2012.

The former Massachusetts governor and business executive can no longer claim to have made history by becoming the first Republican non-incumbent to win both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary since the caucuses became the start of the presidential nominating process in 1976.

Iowa party officials had announced Romney as the winner early morning on Jan. 4 because he was ahead of Santorum by eight votes in its initial tabulation from the 1,774 precincts where voting was held in the state’s 99 counties.

The closeness of the Iowa results revealed a divided party, still undecided over whether to compromise fiscal and social conservative ideology for a candidate -- Romney -- who polls show is better positioned to attract independent voters needed to beat Obama general election.

Santorum, 53, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, surged in the closing days of the Iowa campaign, as social conservatives who give greater weight to the opposition of abortion and gay marriage rallied around him.

Jan. 21 Primary

In South Carolina, where the third nomination contest will be held Jan. 21, Santorum talked at events about how he might have actually won the caucuses. Such statements have been an attempt to cut into the argument Romney’s campaign has tried to make that his showings in Iowa and New Hampshire signify he has momentum and it’s inevitable he’ll secure the nomination.

Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who polls show is gaining on Romney in South Carolina, said the Iowa results shouldn’t be a boost for Santorum.

“Rick Santorum is a fine person, but I think he’s running in fourth place in South Carolina,” Gingrich said on NBC’s “Today” program. “South Carolina conservatives, if they want to stop a Massachusetts moderate, only have one effective vote, and that’s for Newt Gingrich.”

Before the certification, Romney expressed little concern about the outcome.

“I’m not sure that changes much,” he said Jan. 17, when asked about the possibility that the Iowa results could change.

The totals won’t affect the delegate count for the nomination because Iowa will award its delegates to the national party convention later this year, after a state convention.

The night of the caucuses, Romney attempted to play down the results by stressing the smaller effort he made in Iowa, compared with four years ago when he ran for president.

“When I ran four years ago we had 42 members of our full-time staff,” he said. “This time we had five.”

To contact the reporter on this story: John McCormick in Chicago at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jeanne Cummings at jcummings21@bloomberg.net

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