New Results In Iowa Point To Virtual Tie

Jan 19, 2012
Originally published on January 19, 2012 8:16 pm
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Rick Santorum is hoping his reversal in the Iowa caucus results will translate into momentum going into this weekend's primary. Santorum also has the backing of some leading social conservatives. But NPR's Scott Horsley reports that Republican rivals are skeptical that the former Pennsylvania senator can go the distance.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Republican Party leaders in Iowa are officially calling their final caucus tally a tie because some of the precinct results have been lost. But to Rick Santorum, being ahead by 34 votes is still a clear victory. At a waterfront news conference in Charleston, South Carolina, today, Santorum noted the last Iowa tally shows him with more than four times the winning margin that Mitt Romney enjoyed on caucus night.


RICK SANTORUM: As we've said from day one, this is a marathon, not a sprint. You know, there have been two primaries held now. We've won one and...


HORSLEY: Leading social conservatives, like Focus On The Family founder James Dobson, have been urging their followers in South Carolina to get behind Santorum. Here, as in Iowa, evangelicals make up more than half the Republican base. Santorum's been hampered by a lack of money and organization, but he points to his showing in Iowa as evidence that faith in his campaign is not misplaced.


SANTORUM: It's says that we can win elections. We can organize. We can put together an effort to pull the resources together to be able to be successful in being the person that can defeat Mitt Romney because guess what? We defeated Mitt Romney in Iowa.


HORSLEY: So far, polling suggests voters here in South Carolina are choosing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich as the leading alternative to Romney. But Santorum argues Gingrich won't fight hard enough on controversial social issues, such as abortion or same-sex marriage.


SANTORUM: One thing I'd say to undecided value voters: Look for core convictions. Look for someone who walks the walk, talks the talk, and is not afraid to lead.

HORSLEY: Santorum supporter Judy Biggie(ph) suspects Gingrich will be undone by his personal baggage, including two divorces and extramarital affairs - concerns that are likely to be amplified by an ABC interview with Gingrich's second wife. It's set to air nationally tonight, just two days before the primary. Biggie says that will bring the issue to the forefront.

JUDY BIGGIE: It was always there. It was like the elephant in the room and now it's just - everybody's recognizing that it's - the elephant is there, you know. But I think that'll help sort it out for the best candidate.

HORSLEY: For his part, Gingrich has voiced doubts that Santorum has the experience or know-how to run a national campaign. If Santorum couldn't carry his home state of Pennsylvania as an incumbent senator in 2006, Gingrich asks, how can he defeat President Obama in November?

NEWT GINGRICH: He lost his state for re-election by the largest margin in the history of Pennsylvania. Now, there's no evidence that he could put together a national majority.


HORSLEY: The Iowa results will change at least one thing - Romney will have to drop this laugh line from his stump speech, in which he likes to quote from "America The Beautiful."

MITT ROMNEY: Amber waves of grain - when I was in Iowa, I used to try and convince them that corn qualified as an amber wave of grain. I think that accounted for my eight-vote, landslide margin there in Iowa.

HORSLEY: Romney, a consummate number-cruncher, seems far more worried about a late surge by Gingrich in South Carolina, than a late surge for Santorum in Iowa. The former Massachusetts governor is known for his analytical skill. That's part of what appeals to South Carolina Romney supporter John Snyder(ph).

JOHN SNYDER: You've heard the term ready, aim, fire - of course. Some people are ready, fire, aim. And he is ready, aim, aim, aim, fire. And I think that's what qualifies him, in my opinion, to be a great president.

HORSLEY: And for now, Romney's aiming all of his political fire at the man he perceives as his biggest threat - Gingrich. Romney cares far less about who won the first contest weeks ago than about who will win the next one on Saturday.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Charleston, North Carolina. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.