2012 GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (Pic by Gage Skidmore, via Flickr)

Would-be Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney edged his opponent Rick Santorum by a hair during the Iowa caucuses — defeating him by only eight votes. The Republican Party has deemed it the closest-ever margin of victory in a Republican presidential contest.

From CNN:

Ron Paul finished a close third, according to the state GOP. Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who placed fifth, said late Tuesday that he would return to his home state to consider whether his campaign would continue.

Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, had 30,015 votes. Santorum, a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and an upstart challenger who just weeks ago polled in the single digits, had 30,007, the state GOP said.

Each had roughly 25% of the vote in Iowa, the first state to vote in the 2012 presidential caucus and primary season. Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas, had 21%. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich was at 13%. Perry was at 10%, Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota had 5%, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman had 1%.

State GOP officials said certified results will be released in two weeks.

Because the race was initially too close to call, many candidates spoke to their supporters before the final tally was released.

“Game on,” said Santorum, to a crowd gathered in Johnston, Iowa. “What wins in America are bold ideas, sharp contrasts and a plan that includes everyone. A plan that says we will work together to get America to work.”

Even Romney praised Santorum’s efforts when speaking at his celebration party. “This has been a great victory for him and for his effort,” Romney said of Santorum. “He’s worked very hard in Iowa. We also feel it’s been a great victory for us here.”

The focus of the race will now shift to New Hampshire, which holds its primary on Tues., Jan. 10.

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