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Tied: Small number of votes separate Santorum and Romney in Iowa

The first test of strength for the men and woman hoping to take on Barack Obama in the autumn got underway in the rural state of Iowa overnight

 Santorum addresses supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party.
Santorum addresses supporters at his Iowa caucus victory party.
Image: AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

VOTE BY PRECIOUS vote, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney battled improbably to a virtual draw early this morning in Iowa’s Republican presidential caucuses, the opening round in the race to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama in the autumn.

“Game on,” declared Santorum, jaw set, after easily outdistancing several other contenders to emerge as Romney’s unvarnished conservative rival for the primaries yet ahead.

Neither a winner nor a loser, Romney looked past his GOP rivals and took aim at Obama.

“The gap between his promises four years ago and his performance is as great as anything I’ve ever seen in my life,” he told supporters in Iowa’s capital city.

Texas Representative Ron Paul ran third followed by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Governor Rick Perry and Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann. Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who did not campaign in the state, failed to make an impact.

Returns from 99 per cent of the state’s precincts showed Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, in a near dead heat.

It is a fitting conclusion to a race as jumbled as any since Iowa gained the lead-off position in presidential campaigns four decades ago.

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