Huffpost Politics

Iowa Caucus 2012: Live Updates From The Hawkeye State

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The 2012 Iowa caucuses are finally here as candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination compete against one another in the leadoff vote of the election season.

The race for the Hawkeye State has proven unpredictable and appears to be heading toward a photo finish with former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), and former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum in a dead heat.

Meanwhile, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, U.S Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), and Texas Gov. Rick Perry find themselves fighting to place in the top three. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, who has invested little time and resources in Iowa, is on the ground in New Hampshire with his sights on the state's primary election, which will take place next week.

Check out the live blog below for the latest developments out of Iowa.

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HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

President Barack Obama's reelection campaign sought to spin the results of the Iowa caucuses Wednesday, arguing in a conference call with reporters that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's razor-thin margin of victory spelled trouble for the candidate.

"He is still the 25 percent man," Obama's longtime communications strategist David Axelrod proclaimed, referencing the eight votes that separated Romney from former Sen. Rick Santorum, who came in second Tuesday night. "Until he proves that he is not, I don't think we can close the books on this nominating process."

As for expectations for Romney in the next nominating contest -- the New Hampshire primary -- Axelrod couldn't have set them higher. "It's a home game for him," he said. "If you don't win your home games with some margin, that just further exacerbates your problem."

Click here to read more.

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Texas Democratic Party spokesperson Anthony Gutierrez released the following statement in response to Perry's comments that his campaign is “back on” despite a fifth place finish in the Iowa caucuses:

No one paying attention is taking Perry’s campaign seriously, but at least he’ll let us watch him flounder on the national stage a bit longer.

The longer Perry stays in the race taking increasingly extreme positions that his cronies back home will have to defend, the better it is for Texas Democrats.

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@ GovernorPerry : And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State...Here we come South Carolina!!! http://t.co/ayZTVJAa

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The National Journal is reporting that Michele Bachmann is suspending her presidential campaign.

Rep. Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., “doesn’t see a way forward in her campaign for the GOP nomination for president and will make an announcement to that effect this morning,” a senior Republican official with direct knowledge of the lawmaker’s plans said on Wednesday. The source stopped short of saying Bachmann is getting out.

Bachmann has a press conference scheduled for 11 a.m. EST in Des Moines.

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Now that Rick Santorum came ever so close to an upset win in Iowa, every reporter and political junkie is reading up on the former senator. Longform posted a link to a 2005 Philadelphia City Paper feature on Santorum that's as good a place to start as any. The reporter spent a week driving all over Pennsylvania interviewing the politician's old friends and associates, and even gets a little time with the man himself. We get high school anecdotes. Even back then, he was playing second fiddle:

Larry Goettler, a tall, broad-shouldered man who owns the Brickhouse Restaurant on North Main Street, was a classmate and friend of Santorum's through Butler's Catholic elementary school and public high school.

"This is a middle- to lower-class town," says Goettler. "If anything, Rick was probably economically a little below the middle. They were good people, a well-principled, blue-collar family."

Santorum was a smart, outgoing kid who cut across social cliques, says Goettler. "Rick wouldn't be the guy dating the senior queen. But he was probably friends with her."

The social scene revolved around high school sporting events, says Goettler. "Plus, we'd drive around in groups of cars and hang out. But Rick was never one to be out late drinking or anything."

"I was on the basketball team with him. He was a second-teamer. Not much athletic ability but as much heart and desire as anyone on the team. He was not afraid to take it on the chin. Rick could take an elbow under the boards with the best of them. But he always got back up and kept playing."

To read the full profile, go here.

-- Jason Cherkis

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WASHINGTON -- Fresh off his unexpected second-place finish in Tuesday's Iowa Caucus, Rick Santorum's fundraising disadvantage was on display Wednesday morning, in the form of an email appeal to the subscriber list of Townhall, a conservative political magazine.

The letter also served as a preview of Santorum's case to Republican voters, that Mitt Romney is too moderate. Romney edged out a victory over Santorum by just eight votes, certified in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

"We can either unite now behind one candidate and have a conservative standard bearer in 2012, or have the GOP establishment choose another moderate Republican who will have a difficult time defeating Barack Obama in November," the letter reads. "My name is Rick Santorum, and I am the only authentic, passionate conservative who can unite the GOP."

But most of the letter is taken up with asking for money, with seven separate links to Santorum's website, a site that crashed Tuesday night due to traffic overload. One example reads, "I need an URGENT contribution of at least today to unite conservative voters." It is also unusually long for a political fundraising letter, nearly 500 words. (The full text is below.)

Santorum falls woefully far behind Romney when it comes to fundraising, despite a boost late in the Iowa primary from donors and from two super PACs. HuffPost's Paul Blumenthal noted before the caucus that "Rick Santorum has visited every county in Iowa, but couldn't afford ads until the tail end of the campaign." The email list of recipients Wednesday also speaks to the bare-bones nature of Santorum's fundraising apparatus, purchased from Townhall in a last-minute pitch for donations after a big victory.

Now that Santorum has bested Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann, his two closest rivals for Iowa's powerful Christian vote, he faces the task of uniting their supports behind him, to create what he called "a coalition of conservatives, Tea Party members, and values voters."

-- Christina Wilkie

The full text of Santorum's fundraising letter:

Dear Patriot:

It's Now or Never for Conservative voters. We can either unite now behind one candidate and have a conservative standard bearer in 2012, or have the GOP establishment choose another moderate Republican who will have a difficult time defeating Barack Obama in November.

I don't think that's what you want. Neither do I. My name is Rick Santorum, and I am the only authentic, passionate conservative who can unite the GOP.

I need an URGENT contribution of at least today to unite conservative voters and win the Republican nomination.

We shocked the world last night in Iowa. We did it with a coalition of conservatives, Tea Party members, and values voters who recognized that my successful conservative record gives the GOP the best chance to defeat Barack Obama.

No more sitting on the sidelines. Now is the time to act or get stuck with a bland, boring, career politician who will lose to Barack Obama. Tomorrow will be too late. Will you unite with me, merge conservative support, and help us hold our banner high? Your contribution of , , or even can make sure this happens.

The next test is New Hampshire … a state Mitt Romney has campaigned in for over four years. This is why I need your immediate support. I’m counting on conservatives around America to respond to this call for help. If we are divided in New Hampshire, we will lose this opportunity to keep the momentum.

I will be the most conservative President since Ronald Reagan. I am not going to Washington to blend in and hope people like me. I am running to dismantle the Obama Agenda and lead--like Reagan did.

The Washington Post said, “Rick Santorum was a tea-party kind of guy before the tea-party even existed.” As a conservative U.S. Senator from the swing state of Pennsylvania, I led the overhaul of welfare that moved millions from welfare to work. I authored the bill banning partial-birth abortion, and I passed legislation that protected America from Iran’s growing nuclear threat.

If you want a President who will stand up for conservative values, who is consistent on the issues, and who has a record to back it up, then I need you to join my campaign.

I need you to join me today. Right now. Not tomorrow or next week. If you want to roll back the Obama Agenda with a real conservative, this is your chance. The future of our country depends on what conservatives like you do in the next 72 hours.

Will you join us today with a generous contribution of whatever you can afford?

I give Republicans the best option to put a full-spectrum conservative in the White House. Help me make history!

Sincerely,

Rick Santorum

P.S. I went from longshot to the Iowa Caucus “surprise candidate” overnight. Now conservatives must unite or be defeated. Please donate today and take a stand with my campaign. Join the fight!

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@ ByronYork : On MSNBC, Rep. Steve King on Romney flip-flop issue: 'The last four to five years, he's been consistent.'

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Ron Paul called Newt Gingrich a chicken-hawk for avoiding the Vietnam War this morning on CNN, responding to the former House speaker calling him a dangerous candidate. "You know, when Newt Gingrich was called to service in the 1960s during the Vietnam era, guess what he thought about danger? He chickened out on that, he got deferments and didn't even go," said Paul.

"So Newt Gingrich has no business talking about danger," Paul said. He said some people call Gingrich's politics "chicken-hawk" and that he falls into that category.

"Given everything I believe in, a large part of me thinks I should of gone over," said Gingrich of the Vietnam War in 1985 to Jane Mayer, then at the Wall Street Journal. "Part of the question I had to ask myself was what difference I would have made."

Gingrich received draft deferments for being a graduate student at Tulane University and having children, though his nearsightedness and flat feet might have kept him out anyway.

-- Luke Johnson

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@ kenvogel : Gingrich downplaying impact of ally's SCOTUS win on ads that sunk him: "This particular approach has nothing to do w Citizens United case."

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@ cbsjancrawford : On the charter to NH, Romney says he talked to all the candidates last night but Gingrich. "We couldn't reach everybody."

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@ JamieNBCNews : Breaking - Bachmann has apparently cancelled her South Carolina trip; her campaign has called a press conference at 10amCT.

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According to National Journal, Mitt Romney received a slim majority of votes in the Iowa caucuses because the groups resistant to him didn't coalesce behind a single alternative. Evangelical Christians gave Rick Santorum the largest slice of their votes. But the all-important independent block? They voted for Ron Paul.

As for Iowa, the entrance poll, which surveyed 1,737 Iowans on their way into the caucuses, made clear that Paul’s strong showing was overwhelmingly a function of attracting voters beyond the Republican core. In the survey, independents increased their share of the caucus vote from 13 percent in 2008 to 23 percent this time; Paul won over two-fifths of them. Young voters aged 17-29 were 11 percent of the vote last time and increased to 15 percent this time; Paul won almost half of them. And the share of caucus-goers who identify as moderate or liberal spiked to 17 percent from 12 percent last time; Paul won 39 percent of them.

In all nearly two-in-five of those voting Tuesday night said they had not previously attended a caucus: Paul captured 34 percent of them, far more than Santorum (22 percent) or Romney (17 percent). All of this could make Paul a wild card in states that allow independents to participate in Republican primaries – including New Hampshire, the next test.

Click here for more.

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@ jonward11 : WOW RT @jasonnoble1: The @DMRegister LITERALLY stopped the presses tonight to get Mitt Romney's 8-vote victory into final edition #iacaucus

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@ Philip_Elliott : Worth noting: 3 out of every 4 Iowa caucus-goers supported someone who wasn't Mitt Romney. #2012 Counter: SCOREBOARD

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@ HuffPostMedia : 'I can report...Governor Mitt Romney received 30,015 votes, Santorum received 30,007 votes.' 8 VOTES. EIGHT. VOTES. Craziness #iacaucus

A total of 122,000 Iowans voted in the caucuses.

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Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney was projected the winner of Tuesday night's Iowa Caucus by Matt Strawn, Chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa.

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- Romney campaign officials on his Iowa staff -- David Kochel and Brian Kennedy -- high-fived and exchanged hugs when they heard here that they had won the state by a reported 14 votes.

Moments later, about a dozen young Romney campaign volunteers raced into the now-empty ballroom where Romney had spoken one hour earlier, yelling, cheering, and hugging one another.

In the bigger picture, Romney's Iowa win is secondary to the fact that former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa) virtually tied him. But it is still a win. And for his Iowa advisers and staff, it's a moral victory.

"It's just a whole lot of people who worked really hard to get here. It's nice to be a point or two ahead," Kennedy told The Huffington Post.

-- Jon Ward

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JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Rick Santorum and his inner circle were unsurprisingly pleased with Tuesday night's results, campaign manager Michael Biundo said early Wednesday morning.

While they sat upstairs for more than an hour awaiting the results, the candidate, his staff and advisers watched television and talked strategic successes and failures, Biundo told reporters. But the anticipated phone call between Santorum and rival Mitt Romney did not materialize, he said.

When it became clear that Santorum did well, there were "a lot of smiles, some hugs, some tears," said Biundo. "I might have shed a few tears," he added. "I think everybody shed a few tears."

Biundo said he couldn't be sure how the result would change their strategy going forward, but hinted that the campaign may bolster its staff.

"My phone just keeps lighting up," he said.

-- Elise Foley

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@ dmrcaucus : RT @jenniferjjacobs: @mattstrawn tells us it's too soon to call it despite what @FoxNews is reporting. One precinct left to confirm....

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@ cbsjancrawford : Romney team says he won by 14 votes. Just talked to state party officials.

Karl Rove, appearing on Fox, is reporting the same figures.

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@ samsteinhp : fox is reporting that karl rove's info was correct and romney's votes had been undercounted

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The Des Moines Register reports:

Turnout at Tuesday’s Republican caucuses approached the record set four years ago.

More than 117,000 Iowans were expected to have filled schools, churches and community centers Tuesday night to cast votes in the closest election in caucus history.

Click here to read more.

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@ AntDeRosa : Going by Google's numbers, Santorum is up by 4 votes : 29,968 to 29,964

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@ TPM : CNN reporting Mitt Romney is just ONE vote ahead in Iowa

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HuffPost reports:

In an appearance on Fox News Tuesday night, former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin suggested that Rep. Michele Bachmann's (R-Minn.) campaign for the Republican presidential nomination may be coming to an end after a disappointing showing in the Iowa caucus.

Click here to read more and see video from Palin's appearance.

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@ RickSantorum : Game on! Thanks to all of you, we pulled off our #iowasurprise! Keep us going to NH, SC & beyond: http://t.co/8vhbDWCg http://t.co/s7RWy3yZ

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Rick Perry hasn't formally quit his presidential campaign yet. But the expectation is he will, and it appears his own staffers have resigned themselves to that outcome."25 degrees in Aiken, South Carolina," tweeted Scott Edward Smith. "My boss just quit his Presidential campaign and bars close in 30 minutes. Shit."

@ Ssmith06 : 25 degrees in Aiken, South Carolina. My boss just quit his Presidential campaign and bars close in 30 minutes. Shit.

Scott Edward Smith, according to his Facebook page, lists Rick Perry for President among his activities and interests. The URL on his twitter account is the governor's office's economic development office as well.

But as soon as attention began to turn toward his tweet, he clarified that he hadn't based the statement on any insider knowledge.

"Nothing official," he emailed The Huffington Post, "sorry."

-- Sam Stein

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Cedar Falls Patch's B.A. Morelli and Alison Gowans report:

Political watchers say Mitt Romney did what he had to do in the Iowa Caucus and has a clear path to the Republican nomination for president.

While former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum virtually tied Romney Tuesday, he lacks the general appeal to truly contest former Massachusetts governor, experts say. Meanwhile, for third place finisher Ron Paul, the results were a setback for him.

Now Romney heads to New Hampshire. Santorum may - or he could just focus on South Carolina.

Read more.

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@ MittRomney : Thank you, Iowa! What better place than the heartland of America to start the restoration of America’s heart and soul.

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@ FixAaron : From IA GOP spox: "There are currently 2 precincts outstanding ... As soon as they are counted, IowaGOP will make an announcement."

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