Santorum edges Romney in official count

2012-01-19T10:00:00Z 2012-01-20T05:04:46Z Santorum edges Romney in official countMike Wiser, Ed Tibbetts and Times wire reports The Quad-City Times

DES MOINES — Iowa Republican Party chairman Matt Strawn said he was “proud” of the party’s running of the Jan. 3 caucus even as incidents of missing votes, selective result leaks and a new end result threatened to give the process a black eye.

“It’s an embarrassment,” Drake University politics professor Dennis Goldford said. “I think people out of state are going to point a big finger at Iowa and say, ‘Look, you guys can’t even hold a competent election.’”

Republican Party officials announced Thursday that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum won the Jan. 3 caucuses by 34 votes. That’s a change from the early morning hours of Jan. 4 when Strawn said that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won by eight votes.

Also on Thursday, Strawn acknowledged that the votes for eight precincts in Iowa had been lost and were not part of the certified tally.

“Listen, I’m proud of the caucus process, and I’m proud that we had thousands of volunteers around the state that make the caucus process work,” Strawn said during a news conference at party headquarters in Des Moines. “I’m proud that an overwhelming majority of the counties, 99.96 percent, if I’m not mistaken, complied with the 14-day deadline to get their materials in so we could make an announcement this quickly.”

The certified results made public Thursday showed Santorum with 29,839 votes and Romney with 29,805. Texas Rep. Ron Paul was third with 26,036, followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich with 16,163, Texas Gov. Rick Perry with 12,557 and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 6,046. Bachmann quit the race one day after Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had 739 votes. Party officials said 121,503 votes were certified.

The Santorum campaign seized on the news, saying that the new figures prove Romney is vulnerable.

“We’ve had two early state contests with two winners — and the narrative that Governor Romney and the media have been touting of ‘inevitability’ has been destroyed,” said Hogan Gidley, a campaign spokesman. “This latest defeat of Governor Romney in Iowa is just the beginning, and Rick Santorum is committed to continuing the fight as the clear, consistent conservative voice in this race.”

The Romney campaign, meanwhile, issued a statement calling the party’s canvass results “a virtual tie.”

“I would like to thank the Iowa Republican Party for their careful attention to the caucus process, and we once again recognize Rick Santorum for his strong performance in the state,” Romney said in his statement. “The Iowa caucuses, with record turnout, were a great start to defeating President Obama in Iowa and elsewhere in the general election.”

That the news focuses on a change in the results instead of reaffirming the earlier totals doesn’t help, said Chris Larimer, a professor of political science at the University of Northern Iowa.

“I think it obviously adds fuel to the fire (of caucus critics),” he said. “It hurts the Republicans first, but if it starts a conversation about the reliability, it could potentially hurt the caucuses in general.”

Common Cause, a nonpartisan political advocacy group, issued a statement Thursday calling the caucus results “an embarrassment to the party and the state.”

“Given the millions of dollars the candidates invest Iowa and the importance the state has assumed in choosing nominees, Republican and Democratic leaders alike owe it to Iowans and the nation to run a transparent process and provide a careful, accurate count,” Common Cause president and CEO Bob Edgar said even as he credited voters in both parties with showing “an admirable seriousness about their responsibility.”

Republicans, meanwhile, came to the defense of their party.

Senate GOP Leader Jerry Behn of Boone said it was a “great event for Iowa” and the party did “a great job.”

House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, R-Hiawatha, said anytime 120,000 people cast ballots there are going to be discrepancies and it is common for outcomes to change when the unofficial results get certified.

“It’s easy to Monday-morning quarterback,” he said.

Gov. Terry Branstad, who was in Mason City on Thursday, told the Globe Gazette editorial board that he stood by the caucus process but there has to be a “better job of training people who are doing the reporting” for the caucuses.

“The world is watching,” he said. “We need to do it right, and we need to do it well.”

Sam Roecker, communications director for the Iowa Democratic Party, said he couldn’t speak to the problems with the Republican results or what that might mean for the future of the caucuses.

“What I can say is Iowans take this process incredibly seriously, Republicans and Democrats,” he said.

Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University, said both parties need to take steps to reassure voters here and nationwide that every vote counts and every voted would get counted.

“Iowa will need to tighten up and formalize the process. There is no way to escape this,” Schmidt said. “In 2012, you cannot have a loosey-goosey election that could determine the president of the United States.”

(Ed Tibbetts and Rod Boshart contributed to this story.)

Copyright 2015 The Quad-City Times. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick