Santorum wins, but it's complicated - Updated

Todd Dorman
Published: January 19 2012 | 9:52 am - Updated: 3 April 2014 | 10:42 am in
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So we now know that Rick Santorum got 34 more votes than Mitt Romney on caucus night in Iowa, instead of Romney winning by 8 votes. So Santorum wins, right?

Well, the Republican Party of Iowa says it's not so clear, because crucial results from 8 precincts are the subject of a missing document snafu that may never be settled by mere mortals. So it's unresolved.

UPDATE — Iowa GOP Chair Matt Strawn now declares Santorum the winner. He says there is "no ambiguity" after a morning filled with ambiguity, and criticism of Strawn.

I still think the caucuses emerge from this mess with some dents. And the damage is self-inflicted, which is unfortunate.

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The Des Moines Register, who got the certified results hours before anyone else, calls it "a tie for r the ages." Yep, that unique sort of tie, when someone gets more votes.

Here's the RPI's release:

Iowa GOP Releases Certified Iowa Caucus Presidential Preference Vote Totals

 Des Moines, IA — The Republican Party of Iowa today released the final, certified vote totals of the January 3 Iowa Caucus presidential preference vote. The final, certified vote totals represent 1,766 of the state’s 1,774 caucus precincts, and reflect a record-breaking 121,503 Iowans who participated.

 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus Certified vote totals (1766/1774 precincts certified)

 Rick Santorum    29,839

 Mitt Romney    29,805

 Ron Paul  26,036

 Newt Gingrich    16,163

 Rick Perry    12,557

 Michele Bachmann 6,046

 Jon Huntsman    739

 No Preference    147

 Other    86

 Herman Cain    45

 Sarah Palin    23

 Buddy Roemer    17

 Total (1766/1774)    121,503

 Certified vote totals were unavailable for eight of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. Full, certified vote totals per precinct are available online at www.iowagop.org.

“Just as I did in the early morning hours on January 4, I congratulate Senator Santorum and Governor Romney on a hard-fought effort during the closest contest in caucus history,” said Republican Party of Iowa Chairman Matt Strawn. “Our goal throughout the certification process was to most accurately reflect and report how Iowans voted the evening of January 3. We understand the importance to the candidates involved, but as Iowans, we understand the responsibility we have as temporary caretakers of the Iowa caucuses.”

As Strawn noted during the January 4 announcement of unofficial caucus night vote totals, Iowa GOP rules provided for a 14-day period by which each of Iowa’s 99 counties were required to submit a Form E document from each of the caucus precincts within the county. The Form E document is the official record of the presidential preference vote in each of Iowa’s 1,774 precincts. The deadline for county Republican officials to submit the Form E documents was 5 p.m. (CST) on Wednesday, January 18. Following Wednesday’s deadline, Iowa GOP officials were able to certify results from 1,766 of the state’s 1,774 precincts.

Strawn noted that a hallmark of the Iowa caucuses is the openness and transparency within which the proceedings occur. Not only do voting Iowans and presidential campaign representatives have the opportunity to observe the vote counting in each of the state’s precincts, but each presidential campaign had senior campaign officials in the Iowa GOP’s official tabulation center on caucus night.

Strawn indicated this openness and transparency will continue during the post-certification period as the Iowa GOP will be making the precinct caucus Form E documents submitted during the certification process available for review to both presidential campaign officials and members of the media.

I bet Straw thought of that "hallmark" of openness and transparency line while he was handing the official numbers exclusively to one media outlet.   

Speaking of openness, Radio Iowa's O.K. Henderson notes that the Iowa GOP headquarters in DM was locked up tight this morning and no one is answering the door.

Santorum's supporters are declaring victory, which is a proud American tradition for candidates who end up with the most votes. Apparently, he will be listed as the winner, in the big golden book of caucus results, but with some sort of Roger Maris-esque asterisk. Confusion for the ages.

This is not a good day for the Republican Party of Iowa. I know, as the Register does a fine job of explaining, that caucus results disputes happen often. Still, in this era of easy, instant communication, it's tough to accept the notion that these disputed precincts couldn't file a form on time, resulting in an odd, fuzzy outcome.

I know, I know, none of this is supposed to matter. It's all about expectations and three tickets out and winnowing the field. And the circus is a long way down the road in South Carolina now. Romney will not be stopped, although you do have to wonder how much wind resistance a narrow loss on caucus night would have added to his highflying campaign.

But if we're going to argue to the rest of the country that Iowa should be truly important, then it's pretty tough to also argue that it doesn't really matter who wins Iowa. Close is close enough. Hand grenades, horse shoes and caucuses?

This slapstick ending just hands one more club to an already heavily armed legion of caucus critics. Now, those long, familiar diatribes against small, white, quaint Iowa can end with the phrase, "and we don't even really know who won the last one." Maybe it won't matter, but maybe it will.

Craig Robinson at the Iowa Republican makes a good case that the party should have flatly declared Santorum the winner without a side of waffles.

 But, hey, on the bright side, this means my caucus prediction was right. First time ever.

 

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