Santorum, Romney tied in first U.S. campaign test

Social conservative Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney are tied for first place among Republican candidates in the Iowa caucuses, the first nominating contest of the 2012 presidential election.

With nearly all the votes counted, Romney and Santorum are tied at 25 percent and anti-war advocate Ron Paul is slightly behind at 21 percent.

After a poor showing, Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a speech late Tuesday that he will head home to reconsider his presidential bid. He trailed former House speaker Newt Gingrich with about 10 percent of the votes.

“I’ve decided to return to Texas, assess the results of tonight’s caucus, determine whether there is a path forward for myself in this race.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Michelle Bachman of Minnesota vowed to stay in the race and compete in upcoming primaries, after claiming only about 5 percent of the votes.

Tuesday’s caucus results in Iowa will most likely not reflect the eventual presidential nominees for either the Republicans. But the state’s caucuses can push weak contenders out of the race, or propel stronger candidates to success in other states during the next several weeks.

Following the caucus on Tuesday, Paul, a U.S. representative from Texas, recapped some of the campaign themes that have distinguished him from his competitors.

He credited his success in Iowa above all to his strong anti-war stand and his desire for the United States to sharply curtail its international commitments.

”We certainly don’t need NATO and the U.N. to tell us when to go to war. We have seen a great difference, the majority of the American people are behind us on this whole war effort. They’re tired of the war, costs too much money, too many people get killed, too many people get sick. And, the majority, maybe 70 or 80 percent of the American people now are saying it’s time to get out of Afghanistan.”

Paul pledged to press the same issues in the New Hampshire primary election next week, including his call for greater protection of personal privacy, reform of the Federal Reserve system and a return to the gold standard.

Former House speaker Gingrich trailed in fourth place with about 13 percent of the vote. He addressed supporters at his Iowa campaign headquarters, stressing his opposition to Paul’s anti-war ideas.

“The fact is, his views on foreign policy I think are stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States. And I think it’s a very simple question, which I would be glad, at the next debate, to ask Congressman Paul: If you have a terrorist who is prepared to put on a bomb and wear it as a vest, and walk into a grocery store, or a mall, or a bus, and blow themselves up, as long as they can kill you, why would you think, that if they can get access to a nuclear weapon, they wouldn’t use it?”

Former U.S. ambassador Jon Huntsman came in last with 1 percent of the vote. Huntsman has not campaigned in Iowa. He is pinning his hopes on a good showing in the New Hampshire state primary Tuesday.

The Democratic Party also held its caucuses. President Barack Obama was unopposed for the party nomination but hosted a live Web chat with supporters in Iowa Tuesday night.

He faces a difficult test to win another term in the November election. The nation’s economy has recovered sluggishly from the 2007-2009 recession, leaving many voters questioning his leadership.

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