Iowa Recap: Santorum, Romney in Virtual Tie

“Values voters” rescue foundering candidate

Evangelical Christian voters pushed formerly low-ranking candidate Rick Santorum to a near tie with Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucus, the first state primary in the race to unseat President Obama.

With the race too close to call for much of the night, news organizations called the contest for Romney at about 3am January 4. Both Santorum, a former Senator from Pennsylvania, and Romney, the former governor of Massachusetts, garnered 25 percent of the vote, with Romney squeaking ahead by a mere eight votes. Iowa’s 25 delegates to the Republican National Convention in Tampa Bay this August will likely back Romney.

Texas Congressman Ron Paul, a favorite of libertarians and Tea Party activists, came in a close third with 21 percent of the vote and vowed to continue his run. The three second tier candidates brought up the rear: former House speaker Newt Gingrich earned 13 percent, Texas Governor Rick Perry received 10 percent and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann garnered 5 percent.

Following the final tally, Bachmann dropped out of the race without endorsing another candidate. Perry, once considered a shoo-in for the Republican nomination, hinted that he would continue his campaign despite his dismal showing. He tweeted, “And the next leg of the marathon is the Palmetto State…Here we come South Carolina!!!” Gingrich indicated that the gloves were now off and Romney was in his bulls-eye.

Santorum’s surge in Iowa, after polling in the single digits for the entire race thus far, illustrates his attraction to Iowa’s self-identified Evangelical Christian voters—a bloc making up more than 50 percent of caucus goers, according to Fox News. As Senator, Santorum famously alluded to same-sex marriage as akin to bestiality; on the campaign trail, he likened it to inanimate objects at hand, like paper towels, beer and trees. ThinkProgress notes that Santorum has vowed to annul currently valid same-sex marriages as a measure meant to stabilize the rest of society. His ultraconservative rhetoric has even inferred that religious liberty supersedes civil rights, permitting Christians who disagree with homosexuality to legally discriminate against gays.

Voters’ approval  of Santorum’s strident traditionalism echoes the results of the 2010 mid-term elections, when the three judges who ruled in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage in Iowa were voted out of office after a campaign spearheaded by Evangelical groups.

The remaining five Republican candidates now move on to the New Hampshire primary (January 10) and the South Carolina primary (January 21).

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