Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney after Iowa win 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Rick Wilking)
Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney won the Iowa Republican presidential
caucuses by a mere eight votes over former US senator Rick Santorum, a
party official said on Wednesday.
Iowa is better known for narrowing the field than picking a future president, and at least one candidate, Texas Governor Rick Perry, indicated his presidential bid may be over.
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"I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Texas Governor Rick Perry said after a disappointing fifth place finish.
With deep reserves of cash and a strong campaign infrastructure, Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, will emerge from Iowa in a much stronger position than his rivals even though he faces continued mistrust from conservatives.
A favorite of the party's business wing, Romney holds a commanding lead
in the next nominating contest in New Hampshire in one week and has the
resources to compete in bigger states like Florida at the end of the
Santorum vaulted from the back of the pack to emerge as
the latest conservative favorite in a race that has been marked by
volatility. Campaigning in all Iowa 99 counties, he emphasized his seven
home-schooled children and opposition to gay marriage in a bid to win
the state's large bloc of Christian conservatives.
"Game on!" the former Pennsylvania senator told supporters.
staked his campaign on a strong showing in Iowa but with little cash
and a bare-bones campaign operation, he could have difficulty competing
in other states.
As an afterthought in the race until now,
Santorum also had avoided the scrutiny that has derailed other
candidates. Pennsylvania voters threw him out of the Senate by an
18-point margin in 2006, and rivals have begun to comb through his
legislative record to paint him as a free-spending budget-buster.
wisdom holds that there are three tickets out of the state, though John
McCain was able to overcome a fourth-place finish in 2008 to win the
Paul's unorthodox views, including
supporting a return to the gold standard and an end to a US overseas
military presence, have won him a passionate following among voters who
feel deeply alienated from more mainstream candidates. But he will have
an uphill climb translating that into wider support.
Most of the
candidates have topped opinion polls at one point in a race and many
voters said they were undecided even as the caucuses got under way.
gathered in schools, churches and other venues around on a cold evening
in the midwestern state, listening to supporters tout the various
candidates before casting their ballots. Democrats and independents were
allowed to participate as long as they re-registered as Republicans at
Outside groups associated with candidates, known as
"Super PACs," have taken advantage of loosened campaign-finance rules to
flood the Iowa airwaves with negative advertising.
of Representatives Speaker Newt Gingrich saw seen his support erode
under a barrage of such attack advertisements, many from a Super PAC run
by Romney allies. He looked likely to finish in fourth place.
populated Iowa only yields 28 delegates of the 1,143 needed to lock up
the Republican presidential nomination, and those delegates aren't
actually awarded for months after Tuesday's caucuses.