Think You Know Who Won The Iowa Caucuses? Think Again
A recount in Iowa has changed the final numbers, but we really don't know who won.
When we last left the Iowa Caucuses, the results seemed to show Mitt Romney beating Rick Santorum by the razor thin margin of 8 votes. This morning, though, The Des Moines Register reports that the votes have been recounted and Rick Santorum is ahead by 34 votes:
It’s a tie for the ages.
There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.
Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.
GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders. Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 — a margin greater than the certified tally.
The certified numbers: 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney. The turnout: 121,503.
It’s not a surprise that the ultra-thin gap of eight votes on caucus night didn’t hold up, but it’s tough to swallow the fact that there will always be a question mark hanging over this race, politics insiders sa
At the very least, this changes the history of the 2012 Presidential race to some degree. Mitt Romney is no longer the first candidate who won the Iowa Caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary since Gerald Ford, at least not officially. In fact, if you spin it in one direction you could say that Romney lost Iowa, and won the state he was supposed to win thus changing the dynamic of the race. That’s certainly how the other campaigns will try to spin it. The Santorum campaign will claim this is as a victory, and despite the fact that we cannot say for sure who won thanks to those eight missing precincts, perhaps he has the right to claim this narrow “victory.” The Romney campaign, meanwhile, is apparently already calling the results a “virtual tie” in press comments. The rest of the field will try to find a way to make this an argument against Romney’s inevitability.
I don’t think that any of it matters, frankly. We all knew on the night of January 3rd that the margin between Romney and Santorum was small and, frankly, both candidates had a right to claim some sort of victory regardless of which one of them actually had more votes. Heading into New Hampshire the next week, the question was whether Rick Santorum would be able to capitalize on his strong showing in the Hawkeye State. Very quickly, despite an earnest campaign on Santorum’s part the answer to this question was a clear an emphatic no, mostly because Santorum’s brand of social conservatism just wasn’t a good mix for the more independent minded conservatives of the Granite State. That, combined with the fact that Santorum’s campaign remained low on resources, meant that whatever momentum he got out of his surprise showing in Iowa pretty much petered out by the time the New Hampshire primary was over. Would things have been different had he been the one with slightly more votes in Iowa that night? Perhaps they would have, but the candidate would have remained the same and it seems unlikely that he would have done any better on January 10th than he actually did.
It also seems hard to believe that this news will have much of an impact on the race at this point. The momentum from Iowa simply doesn’t last that long and it cannot be revived. Campaigning across South Carolina with the line “hey I won Iowa by 34 votes” is unlikely to impress anyone at this point. So, Santorum will get to make a press statement today and the history books will reflect his narrow, narrow win over Mitt Romney, but that’s about all he’s going to get out of this point. To the extent any of the not-Romney’s have momentum at this point, it’s Newt Gingrich. Santorum, and Iowa are old news at this point. Furthermore, as I noted several times in the run up to Iowa, it’s worth noting that this news has absolutely no impact on what really matters in the race for the nomination, the delegate count. Iowa does not choose its delegates to the Republican National Convention until the state party convention in June. By that point, the nomination fight will be over and, just as it did in 2008, the Iowa Republican Party will send a slate of delegates committed to the presumptive nominee.
There’s one final point that goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway. If this incident, and the truth about how Iowa actually allocates its delegates to the convention, aren’t reason enough to finally end the charade of Iowa being “first in the nation,” then I don’t know what is.