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Mitt Romney wins Iowa contest

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum had been tied for the lead in Iowa's Republican caucuses.

After a close battle with Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney won Iowa's Republican caucuses by 8 votes.

With 100 percent of precincts reporting, the candidates both had 25 percent: Romney with 30,015 votes and Santorum with 30,007, according to the Associated Press.

The LA Times reported that the 2012 Iowa caucuses produced the narrowest margin of victory in history for the Republican contest there.

The closest GOP contest in the history of Iowa's leadoff contest was 1980, when George H. W. Bush edged Ronald Reagan 31.6 percent-29.5 percent.

Representative Ron Paul came in third place with 21 percent of the vote.

Meanwhile, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann were expected to finish in that order, according to Fox News, Bachmann with only 5 percent of the vote in her home state.

Early Wednesday, Romney was congratulating Santorum and Paul on their performances, saying he was looking forward to a long GOP nomination race, the Associated Press reported.

Paul, speaking to supporters in Iowa late Tuesday, said there was "nothing to be ashamed of" in finishing third, Politico reported. He went down swinging, saving his "sharpest anti-Romney attack ad yet" hours before Iowa vote started — according to CNN, "a one-minute radio spot calling the former Massachusetts governor a 'liberal' who has supported government bailouts, healthcare mandates and big government."

Perry, meanwhile, said in his concession speech that he would scrap plans to go to South Carolina and instead return home to reassess his campaign. "With a little prayer and a little reflection, I'm going to decide the best path forward," the Texas governor said in West Des Moines, Politico reported.  

Earlier inthe night, the Wall Street Journal wrote that Iowa voters had split their support among candidates with distinctly different viewpoints in the first presidential nominating contest of 2012. 

With about half the returns in, voters had awarded former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum, former Massachusetts Governor Romney and Rep. Ron Paul of Texas with almost equal levels of support.

The returns illustrate divisions in the Republican Party among three factions: Social conservatives backing Santorum, a more centrist group backing Romney and an unusual coalition of young people, antiwar advocates and limited-government advocates backing Paul, a libertarian icon.

(GlobalPost reports: GOP candidates trade barbs on Iowa caucus day)

Republican presidential candidates traded barbs Tuesday in a contest that, technically speaking, is largely symbolic, as the results will represent the viewpoints of just a fraction of the American population.

(More from GlobalPost: The Iowa caucus: what is it?Iowa, the unlikely kingmaker)

However, each candidate hopes to get a boost from a win in the first voting state. For Romney, who has spent little time in Iowa, a victory would cement his frontrunner status and position him well to take New Hampshire, where he has directed most of his campaigning attention.

An underdog win by Santorum, who has spent the most time in Iowa, would emphasize the organizational power of the conservative base of the Republican Party. And a win by Paul would likely reorient the primary season debate toward cutting spending and limited government, two of his – and the Tea Party’s – core issues.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120103/mitt-romney-rick-santorum-ron-paul-iowa-caucus-republican-us-election