Romney Takes Narrow Iowa Win to N.H.

BY Christina Bellantoni and Terence Burlij  January 4, 2012 at 8:08 AM EDT

Mitt Romney; photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Mitt Romney won the Iowa caucuses by just eight votes Tuesday night. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

Mitt Romney’s foes made clear they have no plans to cede the presidential contest to him after Iowa’s caucuses delivered a split result that found him barely edging Rick Santorum Tuesday night. Texas Rep. Ron Paul placed third.

Fourth-place finisher and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, with plans to attack Romney on the airwaves and at the next debates, declared that Iowa’s caucuses marked just “the beginning of an extraordinarily important campaign.”

Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann told her fans in Iowa the contest was “the very first chapter in this long journey to take our country back from Barack Obama.” But The Associated Press reported that she had scrapped plans to campaign in South Carolina. Instead she will hold a news conference Wednesday morning in Des Moines.

National Democrats intend to poke at Romney for winning the caucuses by just eight votes, but the former Massachusetts governor remains in a strong position heading into Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary.

“I’m going to take every win I can possibly get,” Romney told ABC News Wednesday morning. Asked about the photo finish despite spending much more on television than Santorum, Romney said that his was “a national campaign,” while the former Pennsylvania senator focused “in a wise way” on Iowa. Indeed, Santorum campaigned in all 99 counties.

Romney boosters point out he was able to win a state he barely competed in and that he was able to dispatch Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who announced before the final results were tallied Tuesday that he would head back to Austin to consider his options after “a little prayer and a little reflection.” Perry, who actually captured caucus wins in two Iowa counties, will announce a decision later this week. It’s unclear how much of the $15 million he had in the bank as of Sept. 30 remains in his account Wednesday.

Update: But later Wednesday morning, Perry tweeted this:

Team Obama has kept a laser focus on Romney for months and indicated it won’t let up, either. The talking point Wednesday was that “Romney’s own party has serious doubts about his candidacy.” The campaign posted a new video Wednesday morning showcasing Iowans who caucused for the president in the Democrats’ perfunctory caucuses.

“It’s going to be a big battle, I hope you guys are geared up,” President Obama, fresh off his Hawaiian vacation and with plans to talk about the economy in Ohio Wednesday, told Iowa Democrats via a live stream video Tuesday.

An Obama campaign official told the Morning Line that 25,000 Iowans turned up for local caucuses, with 7,500 of them pledging to volunteer for the campaign, and compared that with the several thousand who showed up to uncontested caucuses for George W. Bush in 2004.

“A day after predicting victory and after six years of trying to win Iowa, Mitt Romney was unable to reach the same margin of the vote he received in 2008 among a Republican field widely recognized as weak,” the official said. “It was a poor performance from a candidate who did everything possible to win — even sacrificing principles to become the self-professed Tea Party candidate and to get to the right of Rick Perry, Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich.”

Democrats also will point out that Romney won 30,015 votes — fewer than the 30,021 he captured in 2008.

Check out the NewsHour’s live blog from the evening, our interactive maps to see how Iowa’s counties voted and watch the candidates’ speeches here.

The NewsHour’s special election night coverage featured analysis from Mark Shields and David Brooks, who mixed it up with Stuart Rothenberg of the Rothenberg Political Report about whether it was a moral victory for Romney.

ON TO … MULTIPLE STATES

Romney, who held a strong lead in New Hampshire as of Tuesday, heads to campaign rallies there and will accept an endorsement from the 2008 nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain. (See Romney’s strong lead in Hill endorsements via Roll Call’s handy endorsement tracker.) McCain’s victory in the Granite State four years ago (after placing fourth in the Iowa caucuses) helped propel him to the nomination. Romney also released a positive television ad in Florida ahead of the Sunshine State’s Jan. 31 contest.

Team NewsHour will be on the ground in New Hampshire for full coverage of the primary battle.

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (who captured 744 votes, or .06 percent Tuesday night after not even competing in the Hawkeye State) will make his stand against Romney in New Hampshire.

A small-sample CNN poll of New Hampshire Republicans who watched caucus results found Santorum received a bit of a boost after his showing in Iowa, but Romney maintained his front-runner status in the state with 47 percent. Paul was in a distant second at 17 percent and Huntsman had 13 percent. A Suffolk University/7News tracking poll released Tuesday offered a similar results with 13 percent of voters undecided.

Bachmann and Perry had initially planned to travel to South Carolina on Wednesday, but that won’t happen. Gingrich will visit in the coming days, and Romney plans events there Thursday.

GINGRICH LOOKS TO ROMNEY’S RIGHT

Gingrich began to go negative against Romney a few days ago, and the Associated Press reported that he will step it up with new ads in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Florida. He’ll also be joined by the pro-Gingrich Winning our Future super PAC.

Rick Tyler, a former Gingrich aide who works for the PAC, told the Morning Line to expect ads “soon” in South Carolina that will remind voters Romney once “ran to the left of Ted Kennedy” on abortion and gay rights issues.

“We will be focused on South Carolina and will try to make the most of our resources in New Hampshire,” said Tyler, who declined to disclose the size of the ad buy or give a timeline for when the ads will go live. “All our advertising has been pro-Gingrich to date. I suspect that will change and we will be much more pointed about Mitt Romney and his past. He has no conservative record of accomplishment.”

Tyler said Florida is “still looking very good” for his former boss. “There’s a long way to go,” he said.

WHAT’S NEXT FOR BACHMANN?

Bachmann, who had said Tuesday night she would fight on, came in sixth with 5 percent of the vote. Her disappointing showing wasn’t helped in her own hometown of Waterloo. The congresswoman earned just 262 votes in Black Hawk County.

Make sure to follow the NewsHour’s politics team on Twitter for the latest from the trail and analysis in Washington.

TWEET OF THE MORNING

@RickSantorum “Game on! Thanks to all of you, we pulled off our #iowasurprise! Keep us going to NH, SC & beyond: ricksantorum.com pic.twitter.com/s7RWy3yZ”

ON THE TRAIL

All events listed in Eastern Time.

  • Jon Huntsman holds five New Hampshire events: in Concord at 8:30 a.m., Pittsfield at 10 a.m., Barrington at 12:15 p.m. and Manchester at 4 p.m. and 5:20 p.m.

  • Newt Gingrich makes three New Hampshire stops: in Concord at 10:30 a.m., Laconia at 3 p.m. and Manchester at 7 p.m.

  • Mitt Romney holds a pair of New Hampshire town halls: in Manchester at 12:45 p.m. and Peterborough at 5:40 p.m.

  • Rick Santorum holds a town hall in Brentwood, N.H., at 7 p.m.

All future events can be found on our Political Calendar:


For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

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Follow the politics team on Twitter: @cbellantoni, @burlij, @elizsummers, @quinnbowman.