WASHINGTON, January 4, 2012 – After considerable last-minute confusion, the Republican Party of Iowa announced that former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney had officially won the 2012 Iowa Republican Caucus vote by a slim 8-vote margin over surprise second place finisher, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum. The results represented the closest finish ever in Iowa Caucus history.
Speaking on a televised feed from Des Moines, State Republican Party Chairman Matt Strawn declared at approximately 2:30 a. m. EST that Mr. Romney the winner over Mr. Santorum by a vote of 30,015 to 30,007 with each taking roughly 25% of the popular vote. Representative Ron Paul polled third at 21%, with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailing at a distant 13%.
Texas Governor Rick Perry polled only 10% of the vote and hinted in a post caucus speech that he may be re-evaluating his candidacy. Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachman, winner of last year’s Iowa straw poll, captured only 5% of the vote, while former Utah Governor John Huntsman, who didn’t actively campaign in Iowa, eked out a meager 1%.
The cable news networks lobbied vigorously for a dwindling pool of viewers as the evening continued to stretch out without a final result. The problem in reporting the final official count was narrowed to one precinct that had apparently not reported its numbers to state party officials.
CNN suddenly broke from the media pack when CNN’s Mark Preston got a pair of precinct captains out of bed and received confirmation of the votes in question. Anchors John King and Wolf Blitzer were then able to determine with near pinpoint accuracy the final tally, although the network was careful to avoid calling the winner until after Mr. Strawn’s announcement.
In what was clearly the seemingly endless evening’s highlight, Wolf Blitzer discussed the missing vote issue with Clinton County Iowa’s Republican Chair Edith Pfeffer and the woman who’d roused her out of bed, Carolynn Tallet, CNN’s initial contact. According to Ms. Pfeffer, the vote counts from the allegedly missing county precinct reportedly had been phoned in to the state Republican Party central committee at 7:48 p. m. CST. But for some reason the numbers had not been incorporated into the state counts the networks were relying on for their results.
The down-to-earth live exchange between the Iowans after approximately 2:00 a.m. EST, Mr. Blitzer, and Mr. King was the lightest moment of a long evening, with staffers in the background breaking into spontaneous laughter as the final story unfolded live on the air. After a call from the state organization to Ms. Talett searching for a confirmation of the vote from Clinton County precinct “2-2,” she told Mr. Blitzer she’d tried to rouse Ms. Pfeffer.
When the latter wouldn’t answer her phone—she’d already gone to bed—Ms. Tallet said she went “to Edith’s home and pounded on her door and got her up.” Fortuitously, this is when CNN’s call came through at the Pfeffer residence.
A groggy Ms. Pfeffer sounded flustered when Mr. Blitzer queried her on the numbers, saying, “Oh God, I added them up…a couple of times, oh man.” But working with Mr. King and Mr. Blitzer, she was able to help them update their map to project the final vote. CNN’s initial estimate of a 14-vote Romney margin was revised slightly downward when Mr. Strawn announced the final results.
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