Update (11:33 a.m.): ABC News is reporting that Michele Bachmann has suspended her presidential campaign.---
Eight votes. That's the margin by which Mitt Romney beat Rick "Santorum" Santorum in the Iowa Republican Caucus yesterday. The Iowa Republican called it the "closest caucus finish in history." And while Romney was the victor, much of the ensuing media buzz has been about Santorum, who campaigned in all 99 Iowa counties after languishing in the polls for months.
According to the Wall Street Journal, the final results were as follows:
• Mitt Romney: 24.6 percent (30,015 votes)
• Rick Santorum: 24.5 percent (30,007 votes)
• Ron Paul: 21.4 percent (26,219 votes)
• Newt Gingrich: 13.3 percent (16,251 votes)
• Rick Perry: 10.3 percent (12,604 votes)
• Michele Bachmann: 5 percent (6,073 votes)
• Jon Huntsman 0.6 percent (745 votes)
• Herman Cain: 0 percent (58 votes)
• Buddy Roemer: 0 percent (31 votes)
The candidates now turn their attention to New Hampshire, which will hold the second GOP primary on Jan. 10. South Carolina will be up next on Jan. 21. Romney has already gotten an endorsement from S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley. Could we see a Romney-Santorum campaign blitz across all 46 South Carolina counties? Time and New Hampshire will tell.
Aside from Santorum, the other big surprise in Iowa was Ron Paul, who stands to the right of most of his opponents fiscally while standing to the left on defense spending and foreign intervention. After seeing the caucus results, he told a crowd of supporters he was one of "three winners, three top vote-getters" and intended to continue the campaign in New Hampshire.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Newt Gingrich blamed his fourth-place finish on negative TV ads from the Romney and Paul camps but said he would refrain from firing back with similar ads. Gingrich might still have a shot in South Carolina, where he held a significant lead in December's Winthrop Poll of those likely to vote in the primary.
Rick Perry, who had planned to travel straight to South Carolina after Iowa, today told the New York Times he was headed back to Texas to decide whether to continue his campaign. He had been scheduled to appear at Guerin's Pharmacy in downtown Summerville on Thursday at 2 p.m.
Bachmann, who yesterday told supporters that she was holding out for a miracle, told the Associated Press today that she was canceling her planned campaign trip to South Carolina after the disappointing outcome in Iowa.
The South Carolina GOP, meanwhile, has refused to pay any of the costs of running the state's Republican primary beyond the bare-minimum $180,000 in filing fees collected from the candidates. The State Election Commission has about $1 million set aside, but it still falls $500,000 short of the $1.5 million needed to run the primary. To plug the gap, television comedian and native son Stephen Colbert has offered to donate $500,000 to the state, under two conditions: The primary must be renamed The Colbert Super PAC South Carolina Republican Primary, and the ballot must include a referendum asking whether South Carolinians believe in the doctrine of corporate personhood.