• The Hollywood Reporter on LinkedIn
  • Follow THR on Pinterest

Mitt Romney Wins in Iowa by 8 Votes, Rick Santorum Finishes Second While Rick Perry Suspends Campaign

Maddow on ... Mitt Romney
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Race was the closest in Iowa history, officials said late Tuesday.

Throughout Tuesday evening, as the votes were counted in the Iowa Caucuses, Senator Rick Santorum and former Gov. Mitt Romney exchanged leads, like boxers battling in the final minutes of the last round of a fight.  

PHOTOS: 10 Hollywood Players That Will Make a Difference in the 2012 Elections

Santorum held a narrow lead with 96% of the precincts counted but Romney pulled ahead by 41 votes with 98% of the precincts counted. With 99% of the precincts counted, Santorum was up by four votes. The final count was 30,015 for Romney and 30,007 for Santorum.

Finally at 11:30 pm PST, with the final precincts reporting, state campaign officials declared Romney was the winner by eight votes.

Santorum, who made an unexpected surge forward in recent days with the strong support of evangelical Christians in Iowa, took the stage to thank to his wife, God and Iowa, in that order.  

PHOTOS: Box Office Politics: The Movies and Stars Dems vs. GOPers Love (and Love to Hate)

“You have taken the first step in taking back this country,” he told supporters.“My dad taught me basic things like “work hard, work hard, work hard.”

He said if elected he plans to remove regulations to manufacturers and other businesses to create new jobs. "You want to know what is crushing business, this administration is crushing business," he said.  "What wins in America are bold ideas.”

Romney used his time at the podium in Iowa Tuesday night to attack Obama, saying he “may be a nice guy but is just over his head.”

OPINION: Amusing Parallels Between Iowa Caucus Contenders and Oscar Contenders

He chastised the president for not doing more to keep Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. He also blamed the president for the weak economy and the high unemployment rate. “This has been a failed presidency,” Romney said.

Romney embraced the traditional Republican call to cut regulations and spending, saying  “number one on the list is Obamacare.”

Michele Bachmann vowed to fight on, despite only drawing  5% of the vote. Newt Gingrich blamed attack ads, funded by super PACs supported by Romney followers,  for his poor showing of 13% of the vote. Ron Paul, considered an underdog, surprised pundits by coming in third with 21% of the vote.

Meanwhile, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who received just 10 percent of the Iowa vote, said he was suspending his campaign to go back to his home state. 

ANALYSIS: Super PAC Spending Drops Gingrich to Fourth Place in Iowa

"With the voters' decision tonight in Iowa, I've decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight's caucus and determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race," Perry told his supporters. "And with a little prayer and reflection, I'm going decide the best path forward," he added. 

Pundits do not expect Perry to return to the campaign. Meanwhile, the other  candidates were looking forward to next week's primary in New Hampshire, where polls show Romney in the lead.