Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney eked out a narrow victory over former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday, winning the first contest for the Republican presidential nomination, the Hawkeye state’s Republican party chairman Matt Strawn said early Wednesday morning after a long night with the two candidates in a dead heat.
Santorum pulled off a stunning come from behind performance in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses, garnering just eight fewer votes than a much better funded and better organized Romney in the closest Iowa contest since the modern caucuses were formed in 1976.
“Game on,” Santorum told supporters gathered in Johnston, Iowa in what amounted to a victory speech before the results were announced.
The devout Catholic father of seven vowed to take his social conservative message to New Hampshire, which holds the first binding vote on January 10. The Iowa caucuses are non-binding.
“With your help and God’s grace, we will have another fun night a week from now,” Santorum said after offering congratulations to Romney, who now appears headed toward the nomination. Romney is widely expected to win in New Hampshire, where he owns a vacation home.
In email overnight, I received the following from the President’s campaign:
Who exactly leads the Republican race going forward isn’t clear, but we do know two things:
1) The extremist Tea Party agenda won a clear victory. No matter who the Republicans nominate, we’ll be running against someone who has embraced that agenda in order to win — vowing to let Wall Street write its own rules, end Medicare as we know it, roll back gay rights, leave the troops in Iraq indefinitely, restrict a woman’s right to choose, and gut Social Security to pay for more tax cuts for millionaires and corporations.
2) We’ll be facing an onslaught of unprecedented spending from outside groups funded by corporations and anonymous donors. In Iowa alone, so-called “super PACs” spent $12.9 million on almost exclusively negative ads. These groups will turn their fire even more directly on us in the weeks ahead to prove that their candidate is the most anti-Obama.
This race is officially on — and if we want to win, the only way is to out-organize them on the ground.
Many observers still think Mitt Romney will be the Republican nominee. If he is, we will be prepared. But it’s curious that no one can really explain how, when or why the 70-plus percent of Republicans saying in polls and in Iowa that Mitt Romney’s not their candidate will suddenly come around.
So the path ahead for Romney — or whichever of the Republican candidates is going to emerge from this process — is sadly and starkly very clear: to run even further to the extreme right, and make even more dangerous promises that threaten not only the progress we’ve made but the fundamental fabric of American society.
We also know that candidates who take these extreme positions can, in the right circumstances, win not only a primary but also a general election in just about any state.
Just ask the Tea Party senators from Pennsylvania and Kentucky, and the Tea Party governors in Florida and Wisconsin.
Watching the circus on TV, it’s tempting to think it’s almost funny — but this is not a joke.
We’ve got to be ready.
The only hope I have in this race at this point is the President’s apparent strategy.
They’re continuing to paint the Tea Party as extremists while making overtures toward and in essence embracing the Occupy Wall Street movement.
I’m trusting the American people will have a serious problem with that.