CLIVE, Iowa — Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won Iowa’s caucuses by the narrowest of margins, collecting fewer votes than he won here in 2008 — even as the caucuses themselves saw a slight uptick in voters compared with last time.
Mr. Romney won 30,015 votes, good enough for first place, but still six votes shy of the 30,021 he won in the last caucuses. That suggests a remarkably steady level of support for Mr. Romney but also signals that four extra years of campaigning did little to endear him to the socially conservative voters who dominate the GOP here.
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum came in second on Tuesday with 30,007 votes, just eight less than Mr. Romney. This was Mr. Santorum’s first go at trying to win the GOP’s nomination, and he made a late surge in rallying social conservative voters.
Third-place Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, who like Mr. Romney competed here in 2008, won 26,214 votes this year — more than doubling his showing from the last time, when he placed fifth and won 11,841 votes. An entrance poll taken by the major television networks and the Associated Press found Mr. Paul drawing a large portion of his support from self-described independents and liberal or moderate voters who usually are not prominent players in Republican primary politics.
Tuesday’s caucuses saw 122,250 people vote, which was a slight jump over 2008, when 119,188 people turned out to caucus on the Republican side.
Rounding out Tuesday’s field were former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 16,251 votes, Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 12,604 and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 6,073.
Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr., who didn’t really compete here, won 745 votes, and the other 341 votes split among other candidates. Businessman Herman Cain, who dropped out of the race late last year, received the support of 58 caucus-goers.
Of Iowa’s 99 counties, Mr. Santorum won 62 of them, cleaning up in rural areas. Mr. Paul won 18 counties, while Mr. Romney won 17 — including most of the major population centers such as Polk County, which is home to Des Moines, and also Scott, Linn, Pottawattamie and Dubuque counties. Mr. Paul ran second to Mr. Romney in many of those populous counties.
Mr. Perry won two counties in the southwestern part of the state.
One good bit of news for Mr. Romney is that shedding support from his last go-around puts him in good company.
Eventual Republican nominees George H.W. Bush and Bob Dole both were repeat customers here, and both won fewer votes their last time through — but went on to win their party’s nomination.
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Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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