Bloomberg News

Santorum, Romney Leading in Iowa Caucuses, Paul Projected Third

January 04, 2012

(For more campaign news, see ELECT.)

Jan. 4 (Bloomberg) -- Former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were running a close race for first place in Iowa’s Republican presidential nominating caucuses.

Santorum and Romney were separated by just dozens of votes as counting neared an end early today, with U.S. Representative Ron Paul of Texas finishing a close third.

Santorum claimed 24.6 percent of the vote, Romney 24.5 percent and Paul 21.1 percent, according to the Associated Press, with 99 percent of the precincts reporting.

Because of the closeness of the contest, all three would claim their own strengths as they carried their contest to New Hampshire’s primary election on Jan. 10.

“Thank you so much Iowa,” Santorum told supporters, as final votes were being counted. “By standing up and not compromising, by standing up and being bold and leading, leading with that burden and responsibility you have to be first, you have taken the first step of taking back this country.”

Romney, in comments to supporters in Iowa early today, reflected the closeness of the vote in offering congratulations to Santorum and Paul for their showings.

“We don’t know what the final vote tally is going to be, but congratulations to Rick Santorum. This has been a great victory for him,” Romney said. “We also feel it’s been a great victory for us here.”

“Ron Paul has had a great night,” he continued. “All three of us will be campaigning very hard to make sure that we restore the heart and soul of the entire nation.”

‘Three Winners’

There were “ essentially three winners,” Paul told supporters late last night in Iowa. “We’re going to go on. This momentum is going to continue and this movement is going to continue.”

The top trio were followed, in order, by former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 13 percent, Texas Governor Rick Perry with 10 percent and U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota with 5 percent.

Perry told supporters in Iowa that he is returning to his home state today to reassess the future of his campaign for president. Gingrich and Bachmann pledged to continue their quests.

New Hampshire Next

The six Republicans competing in Iowa completed last-minute campaign stops and appearances on local and national television and radio as the focus of the party’s contest would shift to New Hampshire’s primary voting Jan. 10.

Romney’s campaign said in a news release that it plans to start running television ads in Florida, joining those already airing in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. It was meant as a show of strength that he can afford to advertise in the first four states to vote in the nominating contest.

Romney plans to head to New Hampshire today and South Carolina later in the week. New Hampshire’s primary is followed by South Carolina’s on Jan. 21, Florida’s Jan. 31.

Romney has consistently led, usually by large margins, in polls of likely voters in the New Hampshire primary. No Republican who has won both Iowa and New Hampshire has failed to become the party’s nominee.

Gingrich, in an interview on CBS yesterday, said “yes” when asked if he was calling Romney a liar in how he talks to voters on matters as varied as fundraising and policy positions.

‘Ought to be Candid’

“He ought to be candid; I don’t think he’s being candid,” the former U.S. House speaker said. “Do you really want a Massachusetts moderate who won’t level with you to run against Barack Obama, who frankly will just tear him apart?”

Responding on Fox, Romney shrugged off the attack.

“I understand Newt must be very angry and I don’t exactly understand why, but, look, I wish him well,” he said. “It’s a long road ahead. He’s a good guy.”

Looking ahead to the general election, “President Obama is in much better shape today than he was about six months ago,” David Gergen, director of Harvard University’s Center for Public Leadership in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg Surveillance.”

Although that doesn’t “mean he is not vulnerable, he is,” Gergen said, adding that the infighting among Republicans has benefitted the incumbent by making him “look a little more presidential.”

“The Republicans need to get a clear front-runner and someone who’s going to be anointed fairly soon if they hope to beat Obama,” Gergen said.

‘Tsunami of Negativity’

On CNN, Gingrich blamed his drop in polls on a “tsunami of negativity” created by millions of dollars in advertising against him. The ads have been paid for by a political action committee backing Romney, as well as by Paul’s campaign.

Romney said Gingrich has had “just as much difficulty” in polls in New Hampshire, where negative advertising hasn’t yet become prominent. He also said he is ready for the more aggressive campaign approach Gingrich has promised.

“If the speaker decides to come after me, why, that’s part of the process,” Romney said on Fox. “If I can’t handle this kind of attack, why, how in the world would I handle the attack that’s going to come from President Obama?”

Romney’s Closing

Romney, 64, made his final Iowa pitch in a Des Moines theater, before a few dozen voters, more than 40 television cameras and a crush of media. Ignoring his Republican rivals, he escalated his attacks against Obama.

“He went on the ‘Today Show’ shortly after being inaugurated and said that, if he’s not able to turn around the economy in three years, he’d be looking at a one-term proposition,” Romney said. “I’m here to collect. He’s out.”

Romney faces a growing challenge from Santorum, 53.

Santorum is urging Republicans not to settle for someone who doesn’t share their beliefs on such issues as ending abortions and cutting government spending just because they think that person can beat Obama this year.

“Ten days ago, the polls said I was going to finish last,” he told a crowd gathered yesterday in the lobby of a hotel in Perry, Iowa. “Polls change; convictions shouldn’t. And that’s what I bring to the equation.”

Republican voters have spent much of the past year searching for a more fiscally and socially conservative alternative to Romney, who has been unable to break a ceiling of roughly 25 percent support in most surveys. Yet after a campaign characterized by the rise and fall of several challengers, none has kept a lead over him.

--With assistance from Michael Tackett in Des Moines, Iowa, Catherine Dodge, Greg Giroux, Roger Runningen, Margaret Talev and Mark Silva in Washington and Tim Higgins in Detroit. Editors: Don Frederick, Mark Silva

To contact the reporters on this story: John McCormick in West Des Moines, Iowa at jmccormick16@bloomberg.net; Lisa Lerer in West Des Moines, Iowa at llerer@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net


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