By Lynn Campbell, Hannah Hess and Andrew Thomason, IowaPolitics.com
DES MOINES — It was an Iowa caucus night that came down to the wire, with former
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum
running neck-and-neck for first place in the contest for the Republican
At 1:36 a.m. Wednesday, the Republican Party of Iowa declared Romney the winner
by just eight votes over Santorum, the dark-horse candidate who ran his campaign
on a shoestring budget. With all of the state’s 1,774 precincts reporting,
Romney received 30,015 votes to Santorum’s 30,007. Percentage-wise, the two tied
with 25 percent of the vote.
GOP officials said the caucuses do not provide an opportunity for a recount when
there’s a close vote, because it’s an event run by the political party, and not
The virtual tie led both candidates to make their speeches in advance of knowing
the final results of the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential nominating
contest. The photo finish likely will give both Santorum and Romney momentum
going into the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.
“Game on!” declared Santorum, who was Iowa’s most frequent visitor this caucus
cycle, spending about 100 days in the state but remaining at the back of the
pack until a last-minute surge around Christmas.
“Thank you Iowa for the great send-off you’re giving to us and the other winners
of this campaign,” Romney gushed, as he took the stage at Hotel Fort Des Moines
to congratulate his Republican competitors and his own campaign.
Romney vowed to head to battle in New Hampshire, and to defeat President Barack
Obama. in November in what he called an “election about the soul of America.”
For Santorum, Tuesday’s results were a near repeat of what former Arkansas Gov.
Mike Huckabee did four years ago: A social conservative candidate coming from
behind to win Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.
The crowd at Santorum’s party at the Stoney Creek Inn in Johnston grew larger
and more enthusiastic as the night drew on. They chanted, “Go, Rick! Go, Rick!!”
and “We pick Rick! We pick Rick!” as they saw results coming in on TV. Showing
their evangelical side, they also sang “Amazing Grace” and “God Bless America”
as they waited.
Evangelical voters were key behind Santorum’s success. Santorum was endorsed
Dec. 20 by Iowa social conservative leaders Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley,
after a campaign in which such voters were sharply divided on whether to support
Santorum, Texas Gov. Rick Perry or Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann.
“I kind of believe in what he says, that we shouldn’t settle on a candidate,”
said Jeremy Masterson, 33, of Prairie City, who attended Santorum’s post-caucus
party. “I believe in his conservative values. That’s something we’ve kind of
gotten away from here recently. Plus, the way he did it, the way he started from
the ground up in visiting all 99 counties, it really tells me that he supports
But Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from West Des Moines
who’s president of the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition, told IowaPolitics.com
that he doesn’t believe the endorsements were the reason for Santorum’s surge.
“Even before endorsements, he was coming up in the pack,” Scheffler said. “He
laid a groundwork a long time ago. At the end of the day, people have a lot of
respect for candidates who actually try to come and win their vote.”
For Romney, Tuesday’s win secures him as a national front-runner heading into
the months-long process to secure the Republican nomination for president.
“We’re going to change the White House and get America back on track,” he
Kim Schmett of Clive, a former Polk County Republican chairman and congressional
candidate who said he went to see most of this year’s GOP presidential
candidates 10 to 15 times, said it was Romney’s experience as a business leader
that made him decide to support Romney a week or two ago.
“He has the best chance to win,” Schmett said. “There’s too much at stake of
where our government is headed, to not win this election. His skill set is
almost perfectly matched for what our country needs at the moment.”
An Iowa win was the outcome that Romney had hoped for in the 2008 campaign, when
he spent more than $10 million in Iowa and campaigned in all of the state’s 99
counties, only to finish second to Huckabee in the caucuses.
That cycle, Romney fought for the caucuses with 52 full-time staffers, but this
time, he had only five, he told the crowd of 200 supporters who were invited to
join his victory celebration.
Romney only spent about 20 days in Iowa during the 2012 caucus campaign and much
less money, although his spending was boosted by the super PAC, Restore Our
Future, which ran TV ads attacking former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich of
Georgia. Combined, Romney and his super PAC spent more than $1.5 million on
2,246 ad spots in the Des Moines, Cedar Rapids and Quad-Cities markets,
according to an analysis by IowaPolitics.com.
“Many of Romney’s critics lambaste him for not paying enough attention to Iowa,
not enough days visiting here in the last year,” said former Iowa House Speaker
Chris Rants, R-Sioux City. “But tonight Romney will see the fruits of the labor
he put in four years ago.”
Rants, a former senior adviser to Michigan U.S. Rep. Thad McCotter who last year
briefly sought the GOP nomination for president, said Republicans want a
candidate they trust. But he said even more so then four years ago, they also
want a candidate who can win.
Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, who was considered a contender to win, on Tuesday
translated his loyal base of supporters and large, enthusiastic crowds into a
strong third-place finish with 21 percent of the vote.
“It may make people take him more seriously on a national stage,” said Dianne
Bystrom, director of the Carrie Chapman Catt Center for Women and Politics at
Iowa State University. “It will give him a boost, keep him in the campaign
longer. I don’t think he’ll end up being the national nominee. He’s the ultimate
Paul, who had attracted large crowds throughout the campaign, on Tuesday night
addressed a crowd of several hundred supports, many of them young, at the
Courtyard Marriott hotel in Ankeny shortly after learning that he came in third
in the caucus. The Texas congressman said even though he brought home the bronze
medal, his campaign pillar of very limited government won.
“Those are the issues that we have brought front and center,” Paul said.
“They’re out there. They’re not going away.”
Paul’s promise to cut whole federal government departments and end the war in
Afghanistan are why Joe Stevens voted for Paul Tuesday.
“He’s got a plan to balance the budget, to cut spending,” Stevens said. “I think
those are key.”
Paul promised the roaring crowd that he will keep up his campaign.
“I think there’s nothing to be ashamed of, everything to be satisfied (with),
and be ready and raring to move on, on to the next stop,” he said.
The Texas congressman had long complained that the media wasn’t giving him the
attention he was due, despite a close second-place finish in the Aug. 13 Ames
Straw Poll, steadily growing public support in opinion polls and crowds as large
as 1,000 that turned out to see him, especially on college campuses.
Many doubt whether Paul, who previously ran for president as a libertarian in
1988 and as a Republican in 2008, can go on to secure the Republican nomination
for president. Fellow Republicans have been critical of his advocacy for ending
all wars and bringing U.S. troops home.
Yet political analysts pointed out that while the caucus campaign has featured a
“flavor of the month” ranging from Bachmann to Perry, former Godfather’s Pizza
CEO Herman Cain and Gingrich, support for Romney and Paul have remained steady
at 20 percent or higher.
Since 1972, no candidate that has finished worse than third in Iowa has gone on
to win a major party presidential nomination. The 2000 Iowa winners, Democrat Al
Gore and Republican George W. Bush, and the 2004 Iowa winners, Democrat John
Kerry and incumbent Bush, won their party’s nominations.
Other results Tuesday night:
Gingrich finished fourth in the Iowa caucuses with 13 percent of the vote.
“There will be a great debate in the Republican Party before we are ready to
have a great debate with (President) Barack Obama,” Gingrich said, while
promising to press onward. He praised and congratulated Santorum for running a
“positive” campaign and warned voters not to nominate Paul because of his
“dangerous” foreign policy views.
Perry will return home to reassess his campaign after a disappointing
fifth-place caucus finish, he announced Tuesday night. “I’ve decided to return
to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus and determine whether there is
a path forward in this race,” Perry told supporters at his campaign’s vote night
Bachmann conceded a sixth place finish with 5 percent of the vote late Tuesday
night, but sounded optimistic about the future of her campaign. She referred to
her first-place Ames Straw Poll win in August and thanked the people of Iowa for
“launching us on the path to victory.” Bachmann suggested there could be
“another Michele in the White House” in 2012, referring current occupant First
Lady Michelle Obama.
The 2012 Iowa caucus campaign featured wild fluctuations in front-runners. More
than 40 percent of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers were undecided in the past
week, saying they could change their minds about whom to support, according to a
A few weeks ago, Santorum was at the back of the pack. But five polls released
during the past week showed Santorum surging. He first appeared in polls in
third place behind Romney and Paul. The latest polls showed him moving ahead of
Paul in the final days before the caucuses.
Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad told IowaPolitics.com that he knew Santorum would do
better than expected because he spent more than 100 days campaigning here and
visited all 99 of Iowa’s counties. Other political insiders and analysts warned
in the weeks leading up to Tuesday’s caucuses that Santorum could pull off a
Santorum continued campaigning until the last minute. He visited four caucus
sites Tuesday night in Johnston, Clive and West Des Moines before heading to his
See a map of the caucus results:
By Matt Kittle, IowaPolitics.com
DUBUQUE, IOWA — Just off the first exit of the U.S. 151 Bridge that connects
Wisconsin and Iowa, just inside the limits of Iowa’s oldest city, it was
business as usual early Tuesday afternoon at Mystique Casino.
Hundreds of gamblers at scores of slot machines were trying their luck.
The casino’s next door restaurant neighbor, Houlihan’s, was mostly quiet — a few
stragglers or late arrivals from the afternoon lunch crowd and, perhaps
surprisingly, very little talk of politics.
It seemed like just another day on Dubuque’s former City Island, but today the
eyes of the nation, the world, were affixed on this city of about 60,000
residents and its state of just more than 3 million — a state that has a
significant say in the dialogue of American democracy.
“I guess it goes back to its normal self” on Wednesday, said Jason Ehlers,
Houlihan’s manager, reflecting on the glare of media attention Dubuque and Iowa
have entertained in the months leading up to the state’s first-in-the-nation
presidential caucuses. He seemed resigned to the idea of how fleeting fame can
After Tuesday night, when Iowa decides its favorite Republican presidential
candidate at the middle schools, colleges, hotels and other public and private
buildings making up the 1,774 caucus sites statewide, the national media
attention retreats to New Hampshire and the next political battleground.
“We’ll get by,” Ehlers said of the expected media void.
But Tuesday night, Iowa shines.
Matt Giese, chairman of the Dubuque County Republican Party, said he was
concerned Tuesday afternoon that all goes without a hitch Tuesday night at the
county’s four caucus sites.
Dubuque County’s GOP, like its brethren statewide, opened up an additional
caucus site to make room for what is expected to be a heavy turnout, thanks to
the clear weather and surging political interest.
Florida’s decision to push up its presidential preference primary to Jan. 31,
forced Iowa’s hand and complicated planning, Giese said.
“I hope people don’t get too frustrated if the parking isn’t the best,” Giese
said. “That’s the hand we were dealt.”
He didn’t sound worried about Dubuque County Republicans. After all, Giese said,
this isn’t “their first rodeo.”
Across town, Steven Brody, executive director of Dubuque County Right to Life,
said he wasn’t making any endorsements or predictions. The organization, part of
a vocal and active network in the party’s conservative base, doesn’t take sides.
Brody said he was advising caucusgoers to vote their consciences. He said he
doesn’t care for the political wisdom that says Iowa Republicans should forget
their basic convictions and go with the candidate with the best chance to beat
President Barack Obama.
“We are kind of tired of hearing people say put your issues aside for the good
of the party,” Brody said. “We felt we’ve been burned before.
“We know it didn’t work in 2008,” he said of GOP’s support of U.S. Sen. John
McCain, R-Arizona, no darling of the anti-abortion movement.
Perhaps that idea of voting conscience over expedience is why Rick Santorum has
climbed so high in the latest polls, some showing a statistical tie with top
Iowa caucus contenders former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas U.S. Rep.
Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and seen as among the
strongest social conservatives in the field, has been a staunch opponent of
Rallying the troops
Just off Kennedy Road, in a busy retail district, the Dubuque County Democratic
Party office was mostly quiet. But the Democrats had their own caucuses and
political business to take care of late Tuesday.
While their presidential candidate is set, Iowa Democrats are expected to host
caucuses statewide, mostly to re-energize the troops for the battle ahead.
Obama is scheduled to speak via video camera to Democrats statewide, urging the
same kind of grassroots, volunteer campaign that carried him to the White House
“The Obama campaign has tried to make its volunteer organization friend to
friend, neighbor to neighbor,” said Ken Kraus, a member of the Dubuque County
Democrats and the Obama 2012 drive. “That’s what’s been so strong about it.”
By Hannah Hess, IowaPolitics.com
WEST DES MOINES — A chant of “Ron Paul” surged through Valley High School on
Tuesday, about seven hours before the start of the Iowa Caucus.
Some 700 high school seniors packed the bleachers for the two-hour “Rock the
Caucus” assembly, sponsored by Rock the Vote, a nonprofit group devoted to youth
The students heard final pitches from Republican presidential candidates Paul, a
U.S. representative from Texas; former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum; and
Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, as well as four of former Massachusetts
Gov. Mitt Romney’s sons — Tagg, Matt, Josh and Craig. Democratic Party
Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky spoke on behalf of President Barack Obama.
Dvorsky urged the crowd to show its support by caucusing for Obama, although he
is running unopposed for the party’s nomination. Iowa launched Obama to victory
Jan. 3, 2008, she said.
The students received voter-registration cards, allowing them to vote in the
Tuesday night caucus. Paul elicited the the most applause, and he was the only
candidate bestowed a chant.
“He’s the only man who, I think, speaks his mind,” said Alex Franks, 17, of West
Des Moines, one of the hundreds of students who attended the rally.
Franks said she plans to vote for Paul in a suburban Des Moines Republican
caucus as well as the general election, should he become the Republican nominee.
Iowa allows teens to vote in the caucuses provided they turn 18 in time for the
Franks said she likes the 12-term congressman’s libertarian views on freedom and
“I think we need to bring back the independence of our country, and I think he’s
doing a good job with that,” she said.
Paul on Tuesday promised to keep young people out of unnecessary combat, to
protect their privacy on the Internet and to restore the value of the dollar.
He touted an endorsement from pop music singer Kelly Clarkson. Paul said
Clarkson, the first “American Idol” winner, got a boost in record sales after
she gave him her support.
“Young people like individuals who will stick to principles, and in Washington,
sometimes the two parties mesh together …. and it’s not too infrequent
that I feel obligated to vote by myself,” Paul said during his 10-minute speech.
Santorum, who is seeing a surge in recent polls of probable Iowa Republican
caucus-goers, drew big applause during his address to the students.
Santorum placed third in an Insider Advantage poll of 729 probable Iowa
Republican voters conducted by the Georgia-based polling company Jan 1. He was
the first choice for 18 percent of the voters; Romney and Paul tied for first,
each registering 22 percent.
Surrounded by six of his seven children and his wife, Karen, Santorum pledged to
“restore the family.”
From the bleachers, three students waved Santorum’s “Faith, Family and Freedom”
Cassie Crose and Sierra Smith, both 18, of West Des Moines, said they would
support Romney in the caucuses, as their parents are caucusing for him.
Tagg Romney, the eldest of Romney’s son’s, asked how many of the students
planned to vote in the Republican caucuses. The crowd seemed divided.
“It’s pretty much split between Ron Paul or Obama,” said Conner Feldman, 18, of
Windsor Heights and a Ron Paul supporter.
The 2012 Iowa Democratic Caucuses begin 6:30 p.m. Tuesday; the Republican
Caucuses start at 7 p.m.
See photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowapolitics/sets/72157628702446791/
See video of Paul and youth supporters:
See the Insider Advantage poll: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/docs/2012/InsiderAdvantage_Iowa_0102.pdf
By Lynn Campbell, IowaPolitics.com
CLIVE — Hundreds of people jam-packed candidate events in hotels, businesses and
restaurants for a final glimpse of the 2012 Republican presidential hopefuls in
the hours leading up to Iowa’s first-in-the-nation caucuses.
At least 600 people filled Competitive Edge in Clive, an advertising specialty
manufacturing company that makes signs, for a late-night, caucus-eve rally with
former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.
South Dakota U.S. Sen. John Thune was there, along with Republican Party of Iowa
Chairman Matt Strawn, former Iowa Gov. Robert Ray and several state lawmakers.
Media from Korea, Italy and Spain came to see the spectacle, as did a couple
from Texas and a class of 46 high school students and 10 teachers from North
“Clive event biggest pre-#iacaucus single candidate ever been to,” Iowa Senate
Republican spokesman Don McDowell said on Twitter. “Had…dare I say it…a
general election feel to it!”
The interest and enthusiasm on caucus eve could bode well for turnout at Tuesday
night’s 1,774 precinct caucuses. Republicans expect turnout to be higher than in
the 2008 Iowa Republican caucuses, which set a record with more than 118,000
Four polls released in the past week showed that Romney, who has only spent
about 16 days in Iowa this caucus cycle, is the front-runner favored to win Iowa
and give him momentum going into the primaries for New Hampshire on Jan. 10,
South Carolina on Jan. 21 and Florida on Jan. 31.
In the final day before the caucuses, Romney stuck to his playbook of focusing
on the economy, saying that he’d get rid of regulations that kill American jobs.
A handful of protesters connected with the Occupy Wall Street movement tried to
disrupt the event by shouting “Mic check!” and calling on Romney to stop the war
on the poor. But supporters drowned them out by chanting, “Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!”
Romney took the disruption in stride. He thanked his supporters and laughed.
“Isn’t it great to live in a country where people can express their views and
dissatisfaction?” Romney asked. “Isn’t it great country? I love it. Make it loud
and clear. And I’ll tell you one thing, when President Obama is here, I hope
we’re in the audience making the same sounds about his policies. Let’s make sure
we hear our voice loud and clear.”
Three people were arrested at Romney’s event Monday night. Twelve others were
arrested earlier in the day at the Democratic National Committee’s “war room,”
according to David Goodner, one of the Occupy organizers in Iowa. He said there
have been 62 arrests in the past seven days as part of the group’s efforts to
“Occupy Iowa Caucuses.” However, the group has said it will not disrupt Tuesday
night’s precinct caucuses.
Close on Romney’s heels to finish in the top three at the Iowa caucuses are
Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul and former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, whose
last-minute surge has propelled him from the back of the pack to an anticipated
At a much smaller venue Monday evening, dozens of people squeezed body-to-body
at the Pizza Ranch restaurant in Altoona to see Santorum, Iowa’s most frequent
visitor who has spent about 100 days campaigning here.
Santorum — who has openly acknowledged that he’s run his campaign on a
shoestring — argued to Iowans that he’s electable. He said he’s won elections in
the swing state of Pennsylvania and has spent lots of time in New Hampshire and
South Carolina, as well as in Iowa.
But Santorum also said the effects of his last-minute surge won’t show up in
campaign finance reports due later this month, which will cover donations made
to his campaign through Dec. 31.
“Money isn’t going to win this election. If that was the case, I’d be below
every other candidate and I wouldn’t even be close,” Santorum said. “When we
report our financial picture, it’s going to be embarrassing except in the last
four, five days, we’ve raised more money than we have in the last three or four
months. We’ve done very, very well and we hope to do a lot better after
Until Sunday, Norman and Janet Gustafson, both 71 of Pleasant Hill, were
undecided about whom to support for the Republican nomination for president.
They said they were really impressed by former Godfather’s Pizza CEO Herman Cain
before he suspended his campaign. They liked former U.S. House Speaker Newt
Gingrich, and even considered Texas Gov. Rick Perry.
“We’ve been everywhere,” Janet Gustafson said.
But on New Year’s Day, the couple decided to vote for Santorum because they said
he’s both a social and fiscal conservative.
“He’s not a man with a lot of money, so he does it kind of the Iowa way,” Norman
Gustafson said. “We’ve had enough money influence in Washington, the way that it
is. So if he can come up this way and not be owned, that’s a positive.”
Paul, who is known for his loyal followers and often has generated large crowds
among youth at Iowa’s college campuses, was scheduled to speak Tuesday morning
at Valley High School in West Des Moines for a “Rock the Caucus” assembly.
The Texas congressman’s “whistle stop” tour across the state Monday attracted
more than 700 people in Des Moines, 350 in Davenport, 300 in both Cedar Rapids
and Cedar Falls and 200 in Mason City, according to his campaign.
Watch a video of Romney reacting to Occupy protesters at Iowa caucus-eve rally:
Watch a video of Santorum saying his campaign’s 2011 finances are embarrassing:
See a slide show of photos:
Listen to Romney’s speech:
Listen to an interview with Norman and Janet Gustafson: