Mitt Romney might not actually have won Iowa
Mitt Romney's emergence as the clear frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination has been driven by his victories in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states in the nominating calendar.
But we may find out on Friday that Romney didn't actually win Iowa.
In the early hours of January 4, Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa caucuses by just eight votes: He took 30,015 to 30,007 for runner-up Rick Santorum. Iowa GOP officials said there would not be a recount, and the results were largely treated as settled.
But as Byron York of the Washington Examiner noted Monday, the results were not actually final. The caucus night results were based on phone calls into the state party. But officials also filled out written records of the vote totals, which they had two weeks to mail into the state party. It is based on those documents - not the phone calls - that the results are certified.
The Iowa GOP told CBS News Political Hotsheet Tuesday that the deadline for those written records is tomorrow. A spokesperson said the party expects to make a final announcement of the certified results by the end of the week - most likely on Friday.
Don't be surprised if the certified results don't match the caucus night vote count. As York notes, 2008 Iowa caucus winner Mike Huckabee ended up with 113 more votes in the certified results than he did in the initial results; runner-up Romney ended up with 72 more votes in the certified results. Santorum would only need a net gain of nine votes over Romney to be declared the real winner of this year's contest; an unnamed campaign source told York that Santorum was up 80 votes as of midday Monday.
The Iowa caucuses are an overhyped event that don't actually reward any binding delegates - but because the candidates and media focus so much on them, they have a powerful impact on the race anyway, and candidates who do well getting a boost in momentum and fundraising. Romney's supposed victory gave him a boost heading into New Hampshire, and that contest might have gone differently had he not been declared the winner in Iowa. By the same token, Santorum might have seen a bigger boost had he been able to claim a clear victory as opposed to a close-second place finish.
Santorum, who is hoping to consolidate enough conservative support to beat Romney in Saturday's South Carolina primary, said Tuesday he hopes to be declared the winner in Iowa.
"It'd be awesome to find out now that I won that state," he said. "What better time to get a little bump in winning Iowa."
The better time to have gotten the bump was probably right after the caucuses, before Romney started looking all-but-inevitable as the GOP nominee. But if Santorum is declared the Iowa winner on Friday - just one day before the Palmetto state primary - it could help swing some late-deciding voters in his direction.
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