Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollectionsMitt Romney

Iowa caucuses ending in virtual tie between Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum

January 03, 2012|By Paul West
  • Volunteers in Des Moines react to news on the television during a rally for Mitt Romney at the Hotel Fort Des Moines on the night of the Iowa caucuses.
Volunteers in Des Moines react to news on the television during a rally for… (Chip Somodevilla / Getty…)

Reporting from Des Moines — In the closest finish in the history of the Iowa caucuses, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum were locked in a virtual dead heat in the first battle for the Republican presidential nomination.

With all but 25 of the state's 1,774 precincts reporting, Santorum's lead over Romney was just five votes out of more than 120,000 cast.

Santorum rode a late-breaking burst of support, after getting counted out by virtually everyone until the final days of a long campaign. His Iowa comeback represented a drastic reversal from his last election night, a 17-point reelection drubbing in 2006.

LIVE COVERAGE: Iowa GOP caucuses

“Thank you so much, Iowa,” said the former Pennsylvania senator, who traded his trademark sweater vest for a coat and tie to address jubilant supporters in a Des Moines suburb.

At the same time, Iowa strengthened Romney’s candidacy heading into next Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, where he enjoys a big lead in the polls and a victory would provide momentum to make him the clear favorite to become the GOP nominee.

Ron Paul, nearly doubling his Iowa vote from 2008, was a close third. In an otherwise upbeat speech to supporters in the Des Moines suburbs, the Texas congressman claimed that he and Romney were the only top-tier vote-getters “who can actually run a national campaign and raise the money,” a clear shot at Santorum.

“We have a tremendous opportunity to continue this momentum,” Paul said. But his failure to finish higher disappointed many of his supporters. Dejection was evident on the face of his son and political heir, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who stood behind him onstage.

A distant fifth-place finish apparently ended the once-promising candidacy of Rick Perry. The Texas governor, who started a prime contender for the nomination last summer, broke off plans to fly to South Carolina and said he was returning home instead to “determine whether this is a path forward.”

Despite, or perhaps because of, the wild voter mood swings that produced a revolving cast of front-runners, the caucuses failed to generate the big increase in voter turnout that many Republicans were expecting.

Virtually the same number of Republicans turned out as in 2008. A clear, cold night was no barrier for Iowa residents. GOP leaders had expected that enthusiasm among party activists would mean increased turnout, like the huge vote that Democrats generated in 2008. But the lack of a compelling social conservative to excite the Christian conservatives who dominate the caucuses, and a late-starting campaign by Romney, who played down his Iowa campaign until the last six weeks, may have been contributing factors.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|