published Friday, January 20th, 2012

Rick Santorum's belated Iowa win shakes up GOP contest

  • photo
    Republican presidential candidate former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is joined by his wife Karen as he waves to supporters at his Iowa caucus party.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Who do you support for president?

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's razor-thin victory in the Iowa caucuses Jan. 3 appears not to have been a victory after all, though it's uncertain how that will affect his success in upcoming primaries.

Initial counts put Romney eight votes ahead of former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the Iowa leg of their quest for the GOP presidential nomination.

But the votes have now been certified, and that process gave Santorum a 34-vote edge.

Because results from eight of Iowa's 1,774 precincts are missing, no official winner is going to be declared.

But could news of the revised totals affect tomorrow's voting in the South Carolina primary -- and ultimately affect who gets the nomination? That's hard to say.

Santorum evidently won Iowa, Romney took New Hampshire, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has been gaining rapidly on Romney in South Carolina on the strength of his strong debate performance Monday.

But Gingrich, Santorum and Texas Gov. Rick Perry have been splitting the more conservative part of the GOP vote, with Romney and Texas Congressman Ron Paul apparently getting more moderate voters.

Whether Santorum's belated victory in Iowa will give him the momentum to become Romney's main challenger remains to be seen.

Also uncertain is the effect of Perry's decision on Thursday to drop out of the GOP race and endorse Gingrich.

Gingrich may get a boost, too, from conservative 2008 vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin. On Tuesday, she suggested that South Carolina residents vote for Gingrich.

The results in South Carolina likely will either smooth Romney's path to the nomination or foreshadow an extended primary battle, very possibly between Romney and Gingrich.

It is a moment of high political drama, with serious ramifications for the United States as we seek a candidate who can deny Democrat President Barack Obama the opportunity to extend his disastrous policies four more years.

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