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Romney wins Iowa caucus

04 January 2012, 14:00

Mitt Romney on Wednesday won the first battle in the 2012 White House race, taking Iowa by a razor-thin margin to defeat Christian conservative Rick Santorum by just eight votes.

The former Massachusetts governor won 30 015 votes in Tuesday's Republican nominating contest over 30 007 for Santorum, Iowa officials announced after the two men slugged it out to a nail-biting photo-finish.

"Congratulations to governor Mitt Romney, winner of the 2012 Iowa caucuses. Congratulations to senator Santorum for a very close second place finish, an excellent race here," Iowa Republican Party chairperson Matt Strawn said.

It marked a remarkable comeback for Santorum in the battle to capture the Republican Party crown and challenge President Barack Obama on November 06.

"You have taken the first step in taking back this country," Santorum, who surged here after being given up as politically dead weeks ago, told cheering supporters at what was essentially a victory rally after the Iowa caucus.

The former senator, a devout Catholic who opposes abortion and contraception and has a hawkish foreign policy, took a shot at what are seen as Romney's more centrist views, saying "what wins in America are bold ideas, sharp contrasts."

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor and millionaire venture capitalist, said he and Santorum each had "a great victory" and congratulated Representative Ron Paul on his third-place finish -- then trained his guns on Obama.

"This has been a failed presidency," Romney said late on Tuesday, in a variation of the stump speech he used in Iowa, calling Obama "in over his head" and vowing "I will go to work to get America back to work."

Romney and Santorum ended with 25% each, Paul stood at 21%, and former House speaker Newt Gingrich led the second tier of candidates with about 13% of the vote.

"This movement is going to continue and we're going to keep scoring just as we have tonight," said Paul, 76, a small-government champion who has stumped heavily in his opposition to foreign aid and military interventions overseas.

Gingrich, whose support in Iowa crumbled under a barrage of attack ads chiefly run by Romney's allies, served notice he would show no mercy as the battle for the party's nomination shifted to New Hampshire's January 10 primary.


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