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Iowa Caucus Results: Romney Edges Santorum by Eight Votes

JEWEL SAMAD/AFP/Getty Images(DES MOINES, Iowa) -- Mitt Romney won the first presidential preference contest of 2012 by a mere eight votes Tuesday, narrowly edging out a surging Rick Santorum in the Iowa Caucuses.

The two men -- neither of whom was expected as recently as a month ago to win -- ran neck and neck and finished in a virtual tie.  

The second place finish capped a remarkable rise in popularity for Santorum, who had focused his entire campaign and shoestring budget on Iowa.  Romney finished second in Iowa in 2008, but had focused his 2012 campaign on other early primary and caucus states.  In this cycle, he received exactly six votes less than he did in 2008.

In third place was Rep. Ron Paul, the Libertarian leaning Texan on his third and most inspired run for the presidency.

There were some reporting irregularities from local party committees that dragged the election outcome into the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

ABC News projected that 123,000 people voted in the Iowa contest -- the largest turnout for a Republican caucus.  Romney got 30,015 votes and Santorum received 30,007.

[Click here to see the full results]

While Santorum's showing is an upset of sorts, Romney's narrow victory places the former Massachusetts governor in a good position to win New Hampshire's primary next week before the candidates face off in a more competitive primary in South Carolina.  He's also expected to get the endorsement of Sen. John McCain, the last Republican nominee for president.

As for the rest of the pack: Paul, in third place, held on to his reliable bloc of enthusiastic supporters and ended up with 21 percent of the vote.  The other candidates fell into a lower tier, with Newt Gingrich winning 13 percent, Rick Perry getting 10 percent and Michele Bachmann seeing 5 percent.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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