2012 Iowa GOP Presidential Caucus Results Unresolved

More bad news for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. Or is it? The Des Moines Register's Jennifer Jacobs has more:

THE RESULTS: Santorum finished ahead by 34 votes
MISSING DATA: 8 precincts’ numbers will never be certified
PARTY VERDICT: GOP official says, ‘It’s a split decision’

Rick Santorum – Final total: 29,839 Change: -168
Mitt Romney – Final total: 29,805 Change: -210

It’s a tie for the ages.

There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.

Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

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Perry To End Presidential Bid Before South Carolina Primary

The debate meltdowns really hurt Rick Perry in his quest to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination, and now Perry has decided to end his bid before Saturday's Republican presidential primary and endorse former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Will Perry's actions help Gingrich win the Palmetto State? Only time will tell. The New York Times Jeff Zeleny and Michael D Shear chime in:

Gov. Rick Perry of Texas will end his bid for the Republican presidential nomination on Thursday and endorse Newt Gingrich, two campaign officials confirmed, a decision that could influence the South Carolina primary on Saturday.

The announcement from Mr. Perry was expected to inject fresh momentum into Mr. Gingrich’s efforts to emerge as the leading alternative to Mitt Romney. It was unclear whether Mr. Perry would campaign with Mr. Gingrich in the final two days of the primary campaign here.

Mr. Perry will not participate in the debate here on Thursday evening, an aide said, and will make the announcement to supporters and contributors in South Carolina at an 11 a.m. news conference. He had been aggressively campaigning across the state, hoping that the first Southern primary would revive his candidacy.

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Did Mitt Romney Win Iowa?

If the certified results go against Mitt Romney and declare Rick Santorum the winner, could this be a game changer for the field? Reuters has more:

Two weeks after Iowa's caucuses, Mitt Romney will know for sure on Thursday whether he really did secure a narrow eight-vote victory over Rick Santorum in the first nominating contest of the 2012 presidential election.

The Republican Party of Iowa said on Wednesday it would publicly release the certified vote totals of the January 3 caucuses at 8:15 CST/9:15 EST on Thursday.

Romney solidified his status as the Republican front-runner after Iowa and his big victory in the New Hampshire primary a week later. Slipping behind Santorum in Iowa would blunt that status, but Romney still leads in polls in South Carolina, which holds its primary on Saturday and Florida, which votes on January 31.

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ABC To Air Gingrich Ex-Wife Interview Following Debate

Just when we thought the 2012 GOP presidential primary couldn't get any zanier, ABC nabs an interview with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's second wife. How will this effect Gingrich's apparent surge in the Palmetto State? Politico's Dylan Byars weighs in:

Marianne Gingrich, second wife of Newt, once bragged she could end her husband’s career with a single interview. 

Drudge Report is now reporting that ABC News has landed that "blockbuster" interview, but is having a “civil war” over when to air it.

UPDATE 2: An ABC News spokesperson has confirmed that the interview will air on Thursday night's edition of Nightline.

Also: Fox News' Greta Van Susteren has a letter from Gingrich's daughters to ABC.

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Can Gingrich Win South Carolina?

The media buzz is that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is surging in the Palmeto State. Obviously we won't know until Saturday night who the winner is. Political prognosticator Nate Silver has some thoughts at The New York Times:

There are some hints that Newt Gingrich is gaining ground in South Carolina, perhaps at Mitt Romney’s expense. But the evidence is not definitive yet, and this would represent a reversal of a previous trend that had shown Mr. Romney gaining ground there.

Although Mr. Romney had a double-digit lead in interviews conducted on Sunday and Monday night, Mr. Gingrich was actually ahead of Mr. Romney by five points in interviewing conducted on Tuesday night. However, the sample sizes on the daily samples are extremely small, leading to a larger margin of error and making it hard to calibrate demographic weights, so this evidence is tenuous at best.

If you want additional evidence for Mr. Gingrich’s momentum, you have to look beyond South Carolina and toward national polls. A Rasmussen Reports national survey, conducted entirely on Tuesday night, showed Mr. Gingrich closing to within three points of Mr. Romney nationally.

What seems safer to conclude is that no candidate other than Mr. Romney or Mr. Gingrich is likely to win in South Carolina.

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DeMint To Sit On Sidelines And Focus On 2012 U.S. Senate Races

There is no bigger endorsement in South Carolina than Tea Party favorite Jim DeMint's. And given that we are just a few days away from the 2012 South Carolina Republican presidential primary, a DeMint endorsement could help Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum close the gap on Mitt Romney in the Palmetto State. Much to the glee of Romney, DeMint will remain on the sidelines and instead focus on the 2012 battle for control of the U.S. Senate. Reuters Nick Carey has more:

DeMint is the hero of conservatives in South Carolina, so his backing might well have clinched the crucial state for Romney. Newt Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul had just as much reason to hope DeMint might support them, and put him in the role of kingmaker in the Republican race for the White House.

At a convention of the conservative Tea Party movement in Myrtle Beach on Sunday, DeMint made clear, however, they could all stop holding their collective breath.

The Republican lawmaker, who had refused to endorse anyone, said he was definitely staying on the sidelines.

So instead of picking a favorite for the White House race, DeMint has a different strategy: to strengthen the Tea Party in the Senate and forge a bastion of fiscal conservatism against whoever wins the presidency.

"We need not only to take a majority in the Senate," DeMint told the convention. "We need a conservative majority in the Senate."

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Ford O'Connell At Politico's Arena: 'Jon Huntsman - What Went Wrong?'

Despite being one of the most qualified candidates on paper, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman was never going to win the 2012 GOP presidential nomination. Huntsman’s moderate label, service in the Obama administration and inability to connect on a personal level was never going to fly with grassroots conservatives.

If Huntsman wanted to make a stronger showing in the Republican presidential primary, he should have started his campaign much earlier, not focused exclusively on New Hampshire and above all else; he should have put his daughters front and center much sooner. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a more successful Huntsman presidential bid in the future.

Read more from Ford O'Connell at Politico's "The Arena"

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Huntsman Exits 2012 GOP Presidential Primary

Former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman was never going to win the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, despite being one of the most qualified candidates on paper. Thanks to Governor Huntsman's service in the Obama adminsitration, conservatives never warmed up to his presidential bid. Don't be suprised if we see another Huntsman presidential bid in the future. Politico's Maggie Haberman, Juana Summers and Jonathan Martin have more:

Jon Huntsman will drop out of the GOP presidential race Monday morning and endorse Mitt Romney, POLITICO has confirmed.

Huntsman will endorse Romney in a speech at 11 a.m. Monday at the Myrtle Beach Convention Center.

Huntsman’s exit comes less than a week after he claimed victory from his third-place finish in the New Hampshire primary, the contest he’d staked his candidacy on ever since entering the race last summer.

Huntsman officials are very much cognizant of this and, in an effort to be seen as team players for the likely nominee, suggested it played into the candidate’s decision to get out now instead of after the primary Saturday.

“It was entirely a family decision,” said the source.

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Ford O'Connell Discusses Upcoming South Carolina GOP Presidential Primary At Fox News

Ford O'Connell and Democratic strategist Christy Setzer join Fox News' Gregg Jarrett on America's News HQ to discuss the upcoming GOP presidential primary in South Carolina, the Christian conservative leaders' endorsement of Rick Santorum this past weekend and Newt Gingrich's attacks on Mitt Romney's record at Bain Capital.

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Obama Seeks To Merge Six Agencies

President Obama is asking Congress for more power to shrink the federal government.

The commander in chief proposed merging six trade and commerce agencies on Friday, a move analysts are interpreting as an attempt to quiet Republican critics who say Obama wants to balloon the government.

Obama suggested combining the following agencies: the Commerce Department's core business and trade functions, the Small Business Administration, the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Trade and Development Agency.

Obama still needs Congress' okay before he can make restructuring changes.

"Why now?" Republican strategist Ford O'Connell asked. "President Obama is looking at the polls. He's not doing well in Florida, and independents are souring on him. This is one way to lower government spending to make government more efficient."

The President may also be feeling pressure to downsize before November's election. During his last State of the Union speech, he suggested that government needed to become more efficient.

The deal is far from assured. There's no sign that he'll get cooperation from the Republican-led House, following a year-long pattern.

Veronique de Rugy, a senior research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University said Obama's move was a step in the right direction.

"By reducing the size of government the president is taking small step to cut spending and reduce our debt problem," said de Rugy.

But O'Connell said Obama was merely trying to "shift the blame to Congress" heading into the election season. "He can say, 'Hey, I tried to do my job. I'm being blocked.'"

Read more from Aliyah Shahid at New York Daily News

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