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Iowa recount may boost Santorum

Romney won caucuses by eight votes

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This could change the narrative a bit: A recount of the Iowa caucus vote could give the former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum the victory over front-runner Mitt Romney, who eked out an eight-vote win in the initial count.

The Iowa Republican Party is in the process of certifying the results of the opening round of the GOP nomination fight, which could end up tweaking the initial storyline and erasing Mr. Romney's place in the history books as the first non-incumbent to score back-to-back wins in Iowa's caucuses and New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary.

"When you have eight votes separating two candidates and between those two candidates you have 60,000-plus votes, I mean it's conceivable it could change," Steve Scheffler, an Iowa Republican National Committee member, told The Washington Times.

Though a final announcement isn't expected until later this week, the former Pennsylvania senator is expressing optimism on the campaign trail that the process will swing the final vote tally his way.

"We're still hoping for some good news out of Iowa," Mr. Santorum has said. The Romney camp also acknowledged that the results could change, and downplayed the impact it would have on the race.

The Republican field, now down to five major candidates, is now waging political war in South Carolina, where Mr. Santorum is trying to convince voters in the run-up to the primary Saturday that he's best equipped to be the conservative alternative to Mr. Romney. Many conservatives see the Palmetto State primary as one of the last real chances to stop Mr. Romney from securing the party's presidential nomination.

Mr. Santorum received a boost Tuesday when CNN reported that the New Hampshire Secretary of State Office released the final results of the state's primary, showing he had edged out former House Speaker Newt Gingrich by 115 votes, thus moving up from fifth to fourth. Mr. Gingrich also is angling to become the "anyone but Romney" candidate in the race.

Larry Sabato, of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said that Mr. Santorum would likely receive a "delayed bump of momentum" if the final official count out of Iowa shows that he won the top spot.

"The momentum comes less from a Jan. 3 victory than the new headlines it will generate that put Santorum in a favorable light," Mr. Sabato said. "Will that alone be enough for an upset in S.C.? Doubtful. But it can't hurt, either."

When the Iowa's 1,774 precincts reported their results in the caucuses two weeks ago, Mr. Romney had received 30,015 votes to Mr. Santorum's 30,007 — handing the former Massachusetts governor a razor-thin victory. State rules, though, required the vote to be certified.

Ryan Gough, caucus coordinator for the Iowa GOP, refused to comment Tuesday on whether the certification effort has uncovered any errors in the final tally. The party, he said, is comparing the results that were reported via telephone on caucus night against a paperwork — known as "Form E" document — which is filled out by precinct officials on election night and validated by campaign representatives. Based on party rules, the state's counties and precincts have until 5 p.m. Wednesday to return those forms to the state party.

"We hope to have an announcement by the end of the week," Mr. Gough said.

A belated Santorum Iowa victory would give an ironic twist to the race. Mr. Santorum built his near-win into the stump speech he delivered in New Hampshire last week, where he cited the example of Ronald Reagan by calling on Granite States voters to show Iowa they were wrong — just as they did with Reagan decades ago.

"Back in 1980, Iowa chose George H.W. Bush. New Hampshire chose Ronald Reagan," Mr. Santorum said at a campaign stop in Tilton, N.H.

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