Rick Santorum Declared Iowa Caucus Winner Following Recount

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Mitt Romney is suddenly looking for win #2 in a row rather than #3.

While the former Massachusetts governor appeared to eke out a slim eight-vote win in the Iowa caucus on January 3, the Des Moines Register reports that the final count of the vote puts former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum ahead by 34.

After a long night of vote-counting, Romney appeared to post the slimmest-ever margin of victory in Iowa, but GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, not all of which affected the final vote, but which threw the race to Santorum.

Romney, Santorum

Rick Santorum won 29,839 votes to Mitt Romney's 29,805. In essence, state GOP officials said, Iowa's results come down to a virtual tie, or "split decision."

NBC News will still not declare a winner in the Iowa caucus, saying with results from eight precincts out of 1,774 missing, it is impossible to know who won.

Nevertheless, Santorum declared victory today after the updated results were posted.

What does this mean going forward? Not much. Romney put up a decisive victory in New Hampshire Jan. 10, while Santorum has faded fast since Iowa.

It does deprive Romney of bragging rights, though, and the story could help dissuade primary voters in South Carolina that he is the inevitable nominee.

South Carolina's critical primary is Saturday, with Romney looking to hold off a surging Newt Gingrich, who shot past Santorum after Monday's debate.

Newt got more good news today with Rick Perry dropping out and throwing his support behind him - and in essence giving him more screen time at tonight's debate.

Then again, Marianne Gingrich also started doing interviews.

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