It was this-close in the Iowa Republican caucus between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum. Romney won by a mere eight votes-30,015 to Santorum’s 30,007, or 24.6 percent to 24.5 percent.
You would think a recount would be in order, but no one has said a mumbling word. In fact, Romney won practically the same percentage of voters as he did in the 2008 caucus, which was won by Mike Huckabee, with John McCain finishing fourth. There’s now a report that McCain is preparing to endorse Romney.
Ron Paul garnered 26,219 votes, further suggesting the general indecision in the GOP ranks, who have no standout candidate. Newt Gingrich, who for a while commanded the ever-changing polls, received 16,251 votes, or 13.3 percent.
Trailing badly were Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Jon Huntsman, with Perry tucking tail and headed home to consider his candidacy. Bachmann, meanwhile, has announced her plans to step out of the race. Earlier in the race she won the Ames Straw Poll but gained little traction after that. Huntsman, the former ambassador to China, is banking his chances on New Hampshire after getting only 1 percent of the vote in Iowa.
A little after midnight, with 98 percent of the polls reporting, Romney congratulated Santorum for his victory. It’s hard to deduce what he meant by that, other than that he was surprised that Santorum had come from so far behind to mount a serious challenge.
Later, when the lead was his, Romney said, “We feel it’s a great victory here.” Again, he seemed to be playing it all rather coyly.
One of Romney’s aides was equally hesitant to boast. “I don’t want to make any overconfident predictions about locking things up or running the table,” Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Romney’s longest-serving aides, told the press. “We’re going to leave here with a strong burst of energy, go into New Hampshire, hopefully win there and then win some of the contests that follow. I don’t think we’ll win every contest. I’ll make a bold prediction: We will lose some contests. But at the end of the day, we’ll have enough delegates to win the nomination.”
In Iowa, Romney picked up 25 delegates, which means he has only a thousand or so more to go.
New Hampshire is the next stop on Tuesday and, of course, Romney is not taking the Granite State for granted.
Nor is the Obama administration taking Romney for granted, as they view him as the possible opponent to the president’s bid for re-election.
Among the strategies available is one that paints Romney as the poster boy for conservatives, though the results from Iowa indicate that he still has some ways to go to solidify that stance.
Romney as the embodiment of the “1 percenters” so vociferously denounced by Occupy Wall Street dissidents might be another angle to pursue.
“Yesterday, Mitt predicted victory. Today, he says third would be fine. He can’t even stick to the same position on THAT!” said Obama adviser David Axelrod on Twitter on Tuesday, before the voting began. A Democratic National Committee ad about Romney-“Mitt vs. Mitt: The Story of Two Men Trapped in One Body”-has been making the rounds on the Internet since it aired back in November.
In this way, Romney is viewed as the ultimate flip-flopper, though some independent voters might sum up this floundering as nothing more than uncertain pragmatism, and thus no better than the pragmatist in the White House.
But much of this is mere speculation and presumption that Romney will be the victor and the choice of the Tea Party fans. Perhaps after South Carolina, the field will be reduced and the GOP will see the necessity to unify behind a solid contender, though there’s not very much to choose from.