Rick Santorum and not Mitt Romney might have won the Iowa caucuses. But Iowa GOP officials say we will never know for sure because of inaccuracies from 131 precincts and missing results from eight.The final count, however, gave Santorun a 34-vote lead.
While the initial results gave Romney a win with a narrow 8-vote margin over Santorum, The Daily Beast reports that the final results say Santorum won by 34 votes, but with results from eight precincts missing and inaccuracies in 131 precincts, the true results are uncertain. Changes in the result of one precinct shifted votes by 50. According to the The Daily Beast, with all the inaccuracies uncovered, Chad Olsen, Republican Party executive director, has declared the Iowa caucuses a "split decision."
CNN reports that the final count showed that Santorum had 29, 839 votes and Romney 29,805. The Washington Post reports that results are scheduled to be announced by the Iowa GOP at 9:15 a.m. ET.
According to CNN, a Santorum spokesman Hogan Gidley, described news of the final results "very exciting." Gidley said: "The narrative for a long time has been that Mitt Romney was 2-0...If these results are true and Rick is ahead by 34 votes, then that's not the narrative anymore. There have been two states, two different victors." Gidley added: [Romney's 8-vote win was seen as a huge victory]...by that standard, I guess 34 votes is just about a landslide in Iowa."
Romney said in a written statement early Thursday, that the new results show a "virtual tie." The statement said: "The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie. 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."
The news of final results sparked a debate over whether it will have any consequences in South Carolina and beyond. Santorum spokesman Gidley, thinks so. CNN reports he said: "The bottom line is, it's really going to make a boost to our campaign today and remind people just that we've been able to tackle and take on Mitt Romney head-on. We are the alternatives to him, and we plan on taking this into South Carolina and beyond and showing folks that we've got the message and the messenger that can beat the guy who's just writing checks, trying to buy a state."
Gidley commented on Romney's statement released Thursday: "[I can] understand how the Romney campaign is out there trying to marginalize the victory. I can understand he doesn't want that narrative out there, but it's a big win for our campaign and we're really excited about it."
CNN's Candy Crowley partially agrees with Gidley. While she thinks it is unlikely that the final Iowa results will change the "big picture" for the nominees, she says it may give Santorum "bragging rights," and allow him to "grab the headlines," even if only temporarily. She concedes, however, that it could "change history" by calling into question the much touted claim that Romney was the first non-incumbent Republican in modern history to win both Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses.
The Washington Post agrees with Crowley that the final Iowa results will not change the "big picture" for the nominees:
"Romney’s performance in Iowa has been cemented into the nation’s memory as a win, however narrow it was. And when you combine that with his win in New Hampshire, it has furthered the picture of Romney as the undefeated likely nominee...Romney is still the favorite in both South Carolina and Florida...True, Romney could no longer say he’s the first Republican in decades to win both of the two earliest states, but the reason winning is so important is because presidential campaigns are about momentum. And basically all the momentum from Iowa has already been used up; there’s not much [left] for Santorum to salvage."
Romney won the New Hampshire primary with nearly 40 percent of votes one week after the Iowa caucuses, with Santorum finishing at fifth place, 9 percent.
A Republican Party debate is scheduled for Thursday night in Charleston, South Carolina. The South Carolina primary is scheduled for Saturday, and Digital Journal reports that Gingrich is challenging Romney in South Carolina with the margin narrowing between both candidates.