Santorum Beats Romney in Certified Iowa Vote

There’s still no clear winner – and never will be – thanks to eight precincts in Iowa whose results are missing and couldn’t be certified before the deadline. But as it stands, Rick Santorum now leads Mitt Romney by 34 votes, though state Republican officials are still calling it a tie and saying it won’t change the delegate count:

GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders. Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 — a margin greater than the certified tally.

If the certification had taken place the day after the initial Iowa results, this could have made a difference, especially for Santorum. But at this point it isn’t going to change the race. Romney has already gotten the bounce from his Iowa “victory,” and South Carolinians aren’t going to suddenly flock to Santorum now that he gained another 42 votes in Iowa.

The minor downside here for Romney is he can’t claim the mantle of being the only GOP candidate to win both the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. Not really a big deal, since that card has already been played out. The upside for Santorum is these results will help him bat down Newt Gingrich’s constant assertions that Santorum should drop out of the race and help the former speaker take down Romney. At least Santorum can claim victory in one of the first two states – Gingrich’s best showing was fourth place.

This could make the race more interesting for other reasons. If Santorum won Iowa, and if Gingrich’s surge in South Carolina puts him over the top there, Romney’s air of inevitability disappears. At the very least, it might bring some excitement back to the primaries.