, WASHINGTON, Jan 19 – The officially certified vote count from this month’s Iowa caucuses leaves the winner of that contest unresolved as the results in eight precincts will never be known, a local newspaper reported early Thursday.
The Des Moines Register cited local party officials as saying that the certified results showed conservative Christian candidate Rick Santorum beating frontrunner Mitt Romney by 34 votes.
But the problem is that any one of the eight unknown precincts could have given Romney a winning margin, so the victor will never be known for sure, it said.
After a late night of vote counting following the January 3 caucases Romney had been declared the victor, beating Santorum by an unprecedented razor-thin margin of eight votes, boosting the former governor’s frontrunner status.
Romney went on to win the New Hampshire primary by a decisive margin the following week, the first time since 1976 that a non-incumbent Republican has won the first two contests in the race to win the presidential nomination.
Romney was hoping for a third victory in South Carolina on Saturday which would put him undisputedly on the way to winning the nomination battle, but his rivals were likely to seize on the Iowa results to argue that the race is still up for grabs.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has closed in on Romney in opinion polls following a strong debate performance in South Carolina on Monday, and Santorum is popular among evangelicals in the socially conservative southern state.
Romney has long been the frontrunner in the race to win the chance to take on Democratic President Barack Obama in November elections but has yet to rally a majority of Republicans behind his candidacy.
Many conservatives remain suspicious of Romney over his record as governor of a left-leaning state, and the multi-millionaire former venture capitalist has recently been dogged by charges he is out of touch with ordinary Americans.
The Des Moines Register’s tally of the certified votes was 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney, out of a total turnout of 121,503.