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Romney wins Iowa caucuses by 8 votes as Santorum surges to second

State's top two spots split evenly between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum as Ron Paul takes third and others stumble.

Romney santorum win iowa caucuses tieEnlarge
Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney smiles as he arrives to speaks at his caucus night rally following republican caucuses in Des Moines, Iowa, on January 3, 2012. (Jewel Samad/AFP/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON – Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses on Wednesday morning, beating underdog candidate Rick Santorum by only 8 votes. The two candidates were in a dead heat for first place in Iowa's Republican caucuses most of Tuesday night until the Iowa Republican Party declared Romney the winner after the final precinct reported early Wednesday. 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.

Representative Ron Paul took a close third place with 21 percent, double the vote share he took in 2008. In an interview with Politico, Paul said “I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied and be ready and raring to move on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire."

Due in part to the extremely close count between the top two candidates, victory speeches were delayed and lower-placing candidates had the opportunity to give speeches of their own.

Former US House Speaker Newt Gingrich delivered a speech that signaled his intention to direct his attacks toward Mitt Romney, and sounded a conciliatory note toward former US Senator Rick Santorum in time for the coming week's campaigning in New Hampshire, the next primary state. According to the New York Times, Gingrich "said Mr. Romney would 'be pretty good at managing the decay' but said he would not be able to change the basic structure of the way politics works." The Associated Press reported that Gingrich plans to place a full page ad attacking Romney in New Hampshire's largest paper, the Union-Leader, on Wednesday. It will attack Romney as a "Timid Massachusetts Moderate."

More from GlobalPost: GOP candidates trade barbs on Iowa caucus day

The Washington Post reported that Romney's vote portion, which was nearly the same in 2008 when he came in second to Mike Huckabee, emphasizes the problems that have dogged his two presidential candidacies: "suspicions about his avowed conservatism, struggles to connect with voters and an inability to rally more Republicans around his candidacy."

Santorum's persistent campaigning in Iowa, where he visited each of its 99 counties, paid high dividends, according to the New York Times. But Politico's James Hohmann reported that Santorum will be hard-pressed to match Romney's fundraising and organizational prowess in New Hampshire. Romney was governor of neighboring Massachusetts and is well known in New England.

Politico reported that Paul also predicted trouble for Santorum:

Paul said he was the recipient of “one of three tickets out of Iowa,” but he also made a subtle jab at Santorum, suggesting that the former Pennsylvania senator could not compete with him and Mitt Romney outside the early state map.

Perhaps indicating an end to his troubled campaign, Governor Rick Perry announced he was returning to Texas to reassess his presidential bid, according to the Washington Post.

More from GlobalPost: The Iowa caucus: what is it?

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/united-states/120104/romney-wins-iowa-as-santorum-surges-to-second