Iowa Recount Lifts Rick Santorum Over Mitt Romney

Final caucus tally puts Santorum 34 votes ahead of Romney, with Rick Perry slated to drop out of presidential race.

With the South Carolina primary just days away, front-running Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is suddenly looking for his second win in a row rather than a record third. Though the former Massachusetts governor appeared to eke out a slim eight-point win at the Iowa caucus on January 3, the Des Moines Register reported that the final count of the vote puts former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum ahead by 34 votes.

After a long night of vote counting and nail-biting, Romney appeared to post the slimmest-ever margin of victory in Iowa, but the Register revealed that missing data from eight precincts may never be certified or recovered. GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, not all of which affected the final vote.

In the end, though, the certified number points to an asterisks-bearing win for Santorum, who won 29,839 votes to Romney’s 29,805. In essence, state GOP officials said, the Iowa results come down to a “split decision.”

“The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie,” Romney said after the news broke. “I would like to thank the Iowa Republican Party for their careful attention to the caucus process, and we once again recognize Rick Santorum for his strong performance in the state. … The Iowa caucuses, with record turnout, were a great start to defeating President Obama in Iowa and elsewhere in the general election.”

Iowa was close, but Romney put up a decisive victory in New Hampshire , getting 36 percent of the vote while Santorum wound up in fifth place with around 10 percent.

Though the belated Iowa victory doesn’t have the same kick it might have for Santorum had he sealed the deal on the night of the caucus, it does deprive Romney of bragging rights over two victories in a row and could sway primary voters in South Carolina (on Saturday) and Florida (on January 31). Santorum and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich have been battling it out to capture the crucial Evangelical Christian vote in those two states and the after-the-fact win may give Santorum an advantage.

Another possible edge could come from CNN’s report Thursday morning (January 19) that Texas governor Rick Perry is slated to suspend his campaign. Perry was touted as a strong contender for the GOP nomination when he entered the race last year, but a series of disastrous debate performances prevented him from climbing out of the single digits in polls.

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