A photo-finish for the political history books. The narrowest of margins separated the top two candidates in Iowa’s Caucuses. Mitt Romney finished ahead of Rick Santorum — by just eight votes. Romney spoke with supporters about two hours before the final results were known.
“Thank you Iowa for the great send-off you’re giving to us and the others in this campaign,” Romney said. “This is a campaign night where America wins. We’re going to change the White House and get America back on track.”
Just moments earlier, Santorum spoke with his supporters.
“This has been an incredible journey: 99 counties, 381 town hall meetings, 36 Pizza Ranches — and you’ll notice I’m not buttoning my coat for a reason,” Santorum said.
Ron Paul secured third place with 21 percent.
“I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied (about) and be ready and raring to move on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire,” Paul said.
Newt Gingrich finished in fourth place, with 13 percent support.
“I am delighted to be here tonight and I think we are at the beginning of an extraordinarily important campaign,” Gingrich said.
But is sounds as if the end may be near for the fifth place finisher — Texas Governor Rick Perry.
“With the voter’s decision tonight in Iowa, I’ve decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s Caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race,” Perry said.
Iowa-native Michele Bachmann finished last among the six candidates who competed here, but she told supporters she’s going on.
“Just be prepared. The pundits and the press will again try and pick the nominee based on tonight’s results,” Bachmann said. “But there are many more chapters to be written on the path to our party’s nomination and I’d prefer to let the people of the country decide who will represent us.”
It appears turn-out surpassed the 2008 record, with about 122,000 Iowans participating in the Republican Party’s Caucuses. Anna Fish, an 18-year-old from Windsor Heights, was a first-time voter.
“I thought it was really exciting,” Fish said. “It was really cool to see everybody’s opinions and see how fired up people were to vote today and I thought Iowans did a good job in representing our country.”
Democrats held Caucuses, too. President Obama beamed in a video message. Party officials said 25,000 people turned out for the Democratic Caucuses.