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Recount gives Santorum edge in Iowa caucuses

- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 19, 2012

CHARLESTON, S.C. — Rick Santorum claimed a victory in Iowa's caucuses Thursday after a recount of the Jan. 3 votes gave him a 34-vote advantage over Mitt Romney, who earlier had been declared the winner in the first contest of the Republican presidential nomination.

After a two-week recount the state GOP, which runs the caucuses, announced the certified results — but said it could not declare a winner because there are still too many errors which will never be resolved.

Still, the news could dent the air of inevitability after Mr. Romney had seemed to go two-for-two in the first two contests.

"Conservatives can now see and believe they don't have to settle for Romney, the establishment's moderate candidate," said Hogan Gridley, a spokesman for Mr. Santorum.

As of Jan. 4, the party said Mr. Romney had 30,015 votes and Mr. Santorum was eight behind.

Now the party says the tally stands at 29,839 for Mr. Santorum, and 29,805 for Mr. Romney.

That means Mr. Romney actually won 216 fewer votes than he did in 2008, when he also placed second.

All told, the party now says 121,503 people voted, down from the 122,255 it had originally reported.

Mr. Romney still claimed a victory of sorts Thursday morning.

"The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie," he said in a statement. "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 deadline for final certification of the results was Wednesday. Party officials said eight precincts failed to follow the rules and fill out the official forms on caucus night, meaning those results can never be certified, while other precincts turned in forms that didn't meet the legal requirements.

"It's a split decision," Chad Olsen, the party's executive director, told the Des Moines Register, which was given the final results Wednesday, a day ahead of when the party was to release them.

The party has been frantically recounting votes since reports first emerged that the late-night eight-vote tally was inaccurate.

Officials told the Register that there, even now, are still too many holes to be able to certify the final results.

That is likely to become a black mark against Iowa's claim to first-in-the-nation status. But in reality the results of the caucuses don't actually matter to the process of selecting delegates to the national nominating convention in Tampa this summer. Those delegates will be chosen in later conventions at the congressional district level and, eventually, a state convention.

And even if the results were binding, both Mr. Romney and Mr. Santorum likely would end up with six delegates each under the new proportional system the Iowa GOP is using this year.

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