Huffpost Politics

Iowa Caucus Results: Rick Santorum Ahead Of Mitt Romney

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COLUMBIA, S.C.--Rick Santorum edged Mitt Romney by 34 votes in a surprise flip to the final tally of the Iowa caucuses, but no winner will be declared because some votes remain missing in the event's closest finish ever, Republican officials said Thursday.

Romney had initially been considered the winner -- by just 8 votes -- of the first contest in the GOP presidential nomination contest, giving him momentum heading into the New Hampshire primary, which he won handily. The new numbers could give a boost to Santorum, who's trying to undermine Romney's apparent dominance over the field as South Carolina primary voters go to the polls Saturday.

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn is scheduled to announce the certified vote totals Thursday morning. The Republican officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to pre-empt his announcement, said Strawn wouldn't declare a winner because of the uncounted, missing votes.

An Iowa GOP source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the certified results would show Santorum with 29,839 votes and Romney at 29,805, a difference of 34 votes. But problems in eight of Iowa's 1,774 precincts leave the actual winner unclear.

In a statement, Romney called it a "virtual tie." The former Massachusetts governor praised Santorum's "strong performance" in the state. Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and other primary candidates are vying for voters seeking a more conservative alternative to Romney.

The Des Moines Register first reported the certified vote totals Thursday.

The Santorum campaign said the change in results could change the narrative of Romney as a front-runner.

"The narrative for a long time has been that Mitt Romney was 2-0," spokesman Hogan Gidley told CNN on Thursday. "And 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."

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