[UPDATED 1/4/12, 10:30am]
The music has stopped, and the long game of musical chairs --- otherwise known as the 2011 Republican Iowa Caucuses --- has finally ended. Mostly.
Twitterer Steve King may have put it best when he said on Tuesday as the results we're coming in: "By tomorrow morning Santorum will be on the lips of every American." And it's true. If you don't believe him, just Google it.
With 100% of the results now reported, Mitt Romney is said to have defeated Rick Santorum, a late comer, but one who finally surged from behind, by just 8 votes. 8 votes.
With his "victory," however, Romney seems to have failed to even reach his own 2008 Iowa numbers. Then, when he came in second, he had 30,021 votes. Last night --- a full four years and who-knows-how-many millions of dollars later --- Romney's total was almost identical, at 30,015. He fell by a total of 6 votes from four years ago. 6 votes.
While we've been told --- largely by Fox "News" and the Republican candidates --- how invigorated the Republican electorate is and how they're chomping at the bit to defeat President Barack Obama, the turnout on Tuesday night doesn't seem to suggest as much. Turnout was approximately 122,000 voters --- just about 3,000 more than in 2008. The lackluster turnout and the lack of a decisive winner resulted in commentary on Fox last night which resembled a funeral procession, as opposed to their usually (overly) upbeat coverage.
In the meantime, Santorum reportedly "spent only $120,000 on direct mail and advertising in Iowa versus over $4.5 million by outside groups backing Romney alone." Former RNC Deputy Research Director Matt Moon reports that, when SuperPAC money is included, Romney will have paid $140 per Iowa caucus vote, while Santorum got a steal at just $21 a pop. Without SuperPAC money included, reports Moon, Romney paid $49/vote in Iowa, Santorum spent just $0.73. Some businessman that Romney is.
But once again, with the reported results as close as they are, we're reminded again that every single vote counts. Or at least it should. While every vote was cast on a hand-marked paper ballot at the GOP Iowa Caucuses (with Republicans requiring no Photo ID to vote), and those ballots supposedly counted publicly by hand at each caucus site where results were supposedly announced then and there before being phoned into Republican HQ, Bev Harris of BlackBoxVoting.org reports that at least one large caucus in Des Moines was unwilling to release their results to CNN before phoning them in to the GOP.
As we were watching reported results on Yahoo's news site very late last night, the number of "reported" suddenly went backwards from 99.86% "REPORTING" back to 99.45%. It doesn't look like numbers changed all that much in the bargain at the time. Santorum was still on top, but only by a handful of votes. Shortly afterwards the reported percentage became 100%, and Romney was announced the "winning" by just 8 votes.
[NOTE: Harris will be my guest on my KPFK/Pacifica Radio show today at 3:30p PT to discuss these matters, and concerns about next week's "First-in-the-Nation" primary in NH. If you're not in the Southern California area, you can listen live online right here. - BF]
We're trying to learn more about the issues mentioned above, and a few other related concerns about the late-night announcement of final results at this wee hour of the morning. And its worth a reminder here that, as ever, problems at the "polls" (or caucuses in this case) or concerns about reported elections results don't always emerge until days, weeks or sometimes even months later.
But for now, no matter who is ultimately determined to be the winner of the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucuses, Santorum's "victory" in the Hawkeye State is no small thing. Just ask President Huckabee.