Rick Santorum meets with supporters in Johnston, Iowa, on the night of the… (Andrew Burton / Getty Images )
Who won the Iowa caucuses? It turns out we may never know for sure.
More than two weeks after Mitt Romney claimed an initial eight-vote victory, the Iowa Republican Party is set to announce that a revised tally puts Rick Santorum ahead by 34 votes, the Des Moines Register reported.
However, results from eight of the 1,774 precincts "are missing," the paper said, leaving Iowa Republicans in the position of having to declare an inconclusive result.
"It's a split decision," Chad Olsen, the Iowa Republican Party executive director, told the paper.
An official announcement is due this morning from party officials. Party rules call for a 14-day period after the Jan. 3 caucuses to certify results from all 99 counties, a process that ended Wednesday night.
Each precinct was to submit a formal document, called Form E, with the final vote count from its caucus. But more than 100 of the forms "didn't comply with the party's instructions," the Register reported.
"Some are technically perfect in every way, and some are in a gray area, but we erred on the side of inclusion," state party Chairman Matt Strawn told the paper. "If the campaigns want to make it an issue, they can, but I want to best reflect how Iowans voted on the night of Jan. 3."
The campaigns will each have the opportunity to inspect all precinct tallies this morning after the party makes a formal announcement.
The final result to be announced today will give Santorum 29,839 votes and Romney 29,805, each short of the initial totals announced on caucus night.
Romney's campaign did not concede victory. Instead, it released a statement calling the results a tie.
"The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie," Romney said in a statement early this morning. "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."
Romney and his campaign have touted what they believed to be an eight-vote win for several weeks on the campaign trail. Romney has joked about his "landslide victory" but has also cited the result as a evidence that Republicans were coalescing behind him.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week in Florence, S.C., Romney brushed off a question about whether a Santorum victory in Iowa would change the dynamics of the race. "I’m not sure that changes much," he said.
It's impossible to say how an announced Santorum victory earlier this month might have changed the dynamics in the GOP race. Instead, after Romney won a convincing New Hampshire primary victory Jan. 10, he was able to lay claim to a feat no non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate had ever accomplished: winning both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Polls show Santorum did enjoy an uptick of support nationally after Iowa. He finished a distant fourth in New Hampshire, though, and now is no better than third in polls ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary.