It’s being called the closest Iowa Caucus race in history and the actual winner may never be known.

Iowa Republican Party officials released results from the Iowa Caucuses to The Des Moines Register on Wednesday, then to the rest of the media this morning.  According to what the party is calling its “certified” results, Rick Santorum finished with 34 more votes than Mitt Romney. Romney had been declared the winner in the early hours of January 4, by an eight vote margin.

However, “certified” votes were not reported from eight precincts. In a written statement, Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn congratulated both men, but didn’t declare a winner. The Santorum campaign is declaring Santorum the winner.

“It’s exciting to see that he won the Iowa Caucuses,” Bob Vander Plaats, a Santorum supporter, told Radio Iowa this morning. “I hope the media now reports that he’s the winner versus Romney’s the winner because when the results were inconclusive, they kept reporting that Romney was the winner.”

Dave Kochel was the architect of Romney’s Iowa campaign effort and he called the results a “virtual tie”.

“The party has decided they cannot declare a winner. We congratulate Senator Santorum on an excellent campaign in Iowa,” Kochel told Radio Iowa this morning. “The good news is that the Iowa Caucuses had a record turn-out by Republicans and really what this represents to us is the first step in defeating Barack Obama in November.”

Just over 121,500 people turned out on Caucus Night, according to the party’s “certified” results.

Reporters in Radio Iowa affiliate newsrooms have contacted officials in the four of the five counties which have missing precincts and the local party leaders said they had no idea those precincts were missing. All four county leaders indicated this morning’s call from a reporter was the first they’d heard about it. Four of the eight missing precincts are in Lee County, which is the Fort Madison area. One of the other missing precincts is in Mason City, the others are in Estherville, the Hampton area and rural Pocahontas County.

There are no recounts for Caucus results, as the “ballots” are destroyed after Caucus Night counting. Some counties had printed the names of candidates on pieces of paper which were distributed for voting, but most Caucus-goers wrote the name of their preferred candidate on a blank sheet of paper.

The results released this morning by Iowa GOP officials were emailed.  The doors to the party headquarters in Des Moines are locked.  Party chairman Matt Strawn is not responding to requests for an interview.