Iowa Republican Caucuses live blogging stylistic inconsistencies and all.

Pic courtesy- I and R institute.org

Update- Romney wins by eight votes!

The Iowa caucuses are tonight, as voters in the Hawk eye state wade out into the night of January to cast a vote, marking the first contest of the primary season to begin the process of selecting a Republican nominee, to go up against Senator Barack Obama in the Autumn.

Since 1972 for Democrats and 1976 Republicans have made the Iowa caucuses  the first stop in then process to narrowing the field in the process of selecting a Presidential candidate to be  their party’s candidate. In the months leading up to that January night, candidates, typically flock to the state know for its prairies and cornfields, to converse with voters, get exposure without spending wads of money (well fewer wads of money then they would on tv spots and other advertizing in larger states), with the country waiting with bated breath to see who these voters will select.

Tonight Barack Obama has no Democratic primary challenger (and presidents running for re-election rarely have), though Democrats and Obama campaign organizers say they are treating it as a sort of rehearsal to gauge their strength in the general election (since Iowa is a so-called ‘swing state and if you don’t know what that phrase means then I don’t know what to say except look it up by clicking on the link to this online dictionary). By the way I never heard the term ‘floating voter’ used, even though it is listed as a synonym for ‘swing voter’.

U.S Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX), former  Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA), and former 2008 Republican contender Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA)  vying in a battle for the top spot according to polls, as doors close at the caucuses are about to be called for order.

Lower polling candidates: former House Speaker Rep.Newt Gingrich (R-GA), U.S Rep Michelle Bachmann (R-MN),  and Governor Rick Perry (R-TX)  are also competing.  Fellow candidate and former Governor Jon Huntsman (R-UT) is not competing in the state and is therefore expected to garner little if any support.

It’s important to remember that Iowa is the beginning of the process of selecting a nominee and not the end of it. Though since 1980 any Democratic candidate not counting  incumbents that don’t get a major primary challenge, five of the last seven winners of the Iowa caucus have gone on to become the Democratic nominee, while only twice in that same amount of time has the Republican winner of the caucuses gone on to become the Party’s Presidential candidate.  In 1972   Sen George McGovern (D-SD) and  in 1976 Gov. Jimmy Carter (D-GA) came in second, with a majority of caucus goers not  choosing to pledge thier votes to any of the party’s candidates. And in 1976 then President Gerald Ford beat then Former Governor Ronald Reagan (R-CA).

John McCain who came in fourth in the caucuses, has been the only candidate that has not finished in the top three spots, has gone on to get their party’s nomination.

In terms of the general election, only twice has the candidate that won the Iowa caucus and been the nominee of their party, won Iowa in the general election (Ford in 1976 and Obama in 2008).

Anyway let the live blogging begin:

   7:40AM/ET- With 99 percent of votes counted, its being reported that former Gov. Mitt Romney (R-MA) has won Iowa by eight votes and will pick up the endorsement of  2008 Republican Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain (R-AZ).

1:31AM/ET- Looks like these are the final results with at least 99 percent of votes counted: Santorum leading narrowly with 25 percent, Romney coming in at 25 percent, Paul 21 percent, Gingrich 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 5 percent, Huntsman 1 percent.

1:03AM/ET- I stand corrected (or in my case sit) above I said in 1972 and 1976 the majority of Democratic  Caucus goers decided not to pledge their delegates to a candidate. Actually that is only true for 1976. In 1972, former Democratic Vice Presidential Candidate Sen. Ed Muskie (D-ME) won the caucus.

1:00 AM-   Going to bed it looks like with 99 percent of votes counted it will be Santorum by anywhere between a few dozen and a few hundred votes.

12:58AM- Al Sharpton took the words right out of my mouth when he described Romney’s speech as ‘plastic’ and that Santorum’s was ‘almost poetic.

12:39AM- Romney says ‘tonight is a night America wins’.

12:39PM/ET- Ann Romney introducing Mitt Romney

12:38PM/ET- Five votes seperate Romney and Santorum.

12:30AM/ET-  I never thought I would say this but I think Santorum is reaching out to independents and Democrats.

12:25AM/ET- says tax cuts are not enough.

12:23AM/ET- says ‘freedom’ is the paramount issue in this campaign, striking culturally conservative blue collar populist tone.

12:18AM/ET- touts ‘sacred’ friendship from ‘the redeeming grace that comes from God’.

12:17AM/ET- A victorious Rick Santorum goes before his supporters. Starts thanks with a quote, like any great speech does.

12:00AM/ET- 113 vote difference between Santorum and Romney with 25% each. Ninety-six percent of the vote counted.

11:58PM/ET- Perry says he will ‘return to Texas’ and ‘reassess campaign’.

11:51PM/ET- Rick Perry speaks to volunteers.

11:43PM/ET- Bachmann’s husband buying  sunglasses for a dog, guess he already bought a fluffy sweater.

11:34PM/ET- Bachmann not pulling out despite coming in near last in Iowa. If she can’t win in Iowa, one has to wonder where she can win.

11:34PM/ET- Says she will be ‘forever grateful’ to Iowa voters.

11:32PM/ET-Bachmann  reads from prepared text promises that voters will ‘take back’ country.

11:31PM/ET- Bachmann being introduced.

11:27PM/ET- Gingrich needs to be swinging a broken beer bottle in his hand.

11:24PM/ET- Is the Iowa caucus, when Gingrich discovered that big money in politics erodes the integrity of the process?

11:22PM/ET- Gingrich slams Romney as ‘Massachusetts moderate’ who will ‘add to the decay’ in Washington D.C.

11:21PM/ET- Gingrich calls Paul foreign policy views ‘stunningly dangerous’.

11:19PM/ET- Gingrich publicly congratulates Santorum, if it comes between  Romney and Santorum look for Gingrich to endorse Santorum.

11:18PM/ET- Gingrich once again slams negative ads, calls for ‘great debate in Republican Party’

11:16PM/ET- Gingrich about to speak.

11:15PM/ET- Paul summed up what I think is the most plain spoken view of  ‘American exceptionalism’

11:13PM/ET- Afghanistan and Iraq War veteran comes out and lauds Paul’s foreign policy.

11:10PM/ET Hearing a seventy-five year old guy saying ‘we are gonna keep scoring as we did tonight’  seems awkward, and while were at it given his views on sexual temperance describing a contest involving Santorum with the term ‘three way’ is the very definition of irony.

11:09PM/ET- Paul longs mentions Robert Taft,  puts emphasis on getting out of wars.

11:08PM/ET- New drinking game everytime  Ron Paul mentions Constitution  you have to take a shot.

11:08PM/ET Paul says those that often preach limited government forget about personal freedoms.

11:06PM/ET- Paul says people are uniting in ‘reintroducing’ ‘convictiction that freedom is popular

‘ 11:04PM/ET- “There s nobody else with people like you working hard, enthusiastic, and actually believe in something,” Paul before aplauding supporters.

11:03PM/ET- Ron Paul addressing supporters, plugs cookbook.

10:58PM/ET- CNN projects that Paul will come in third with 21 percent, Gingrich in fourth with 13 percent, Perry in fifth with 10 percent, Bachman in sixth with 5 percent, and Huntsman with 1 percent. Eighty-eight percent of the voted counted Romney and Santorum still in dead heat with Santorum leading  by just 19 votes.

10:51PM/ET- No matter how it ends tonight it seems that Santorum will be a big winner since he rose so quickly and beat expectations so widely. Romney and Bachman will be the losers in the news cycle tomorrow, though Romney will go on to New Hampshire.  No real effect on Gingrich and Perry though there time seems to be limited if they don’t pull off something in South Carolina. Of little or no consequence to Paul or Huntsman.  But with a win, momentum for Santorum could cause anti-Romney forces to coalesce around him as the anti-Romney candidate.

10:49PM/ET- NBC projects that Ron Paul will come in third tonight in Iowa, while Santorum and Romney locked in near dead heat with less than 50 votes between them.

10:45PM/ET- Vote starting to split Santorum’s way. With 88 percent in Santorum gets 25 percent, Romney 25 percent, Paul 21 percent, Gingrich 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 5 percent, Huntsman 1 percent.

10:40PM/ET-  With 53 percent of voted counted Santorum and Romney at 24 % with Santorum leading narrowly with a little more than 600 votes. Paul is coming in with 22 percent, Gingrich 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann dipping down a point to 5 percent, and Huntsman pulling 1 percent. Thinking there is a good chance Bachmann will end her campaign with a concession speech tonight. But then again she has never been one to restrain herself to the bounds of reason.

10:37PM/ET- Supposedly its estimated that caucus turnout will match and maybe slightly exceeded the 120,000 voters that came out for the Republican caucus in 2008. Could be record turnout.

10:30PM/ET- With 46 percent of the caucus vote tabulated Santorum leads by exactly 390 votes. he and Romney both coming in with 24 percent, Paul coming in with 22 percent, Gingrich with 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachman 6 percent, and Huntsman 1 percent.

10:27PM/ET-In interview Rep. Steve King (R-IA) said money probably will dry up for Bachman tonight.

10:24PM/ET- Today I saw a report about Professor Steven Bloom, journalism Professor in New York  and former (or maybe he still has a house there) Iowa resident, who deemed Iowans ‘meth heads’ and argued Iowa was unrepresentative of American and should not be the first contest in the primary season.

10:13PM/ET- Twenty-five delegates are up for grabs in Iowa tonight, and for the first time with Republicans candidates will get a proportional share of those delegates.

10:07 PM/ET- With 42% of  caucus vote counted: Santorum 24 percent, Romney 24 percent, Paul 22 percent, Gingrich 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 6 percent, Huntsman 1 percent.

10:00PM/ET- Still to close to call, NBC says at this point it might not be able to actually call the race before ever  vote is counted.

9:54PM/ET- My thought on Romney nobody can ever be excited about Romney they can only feel comfortable with him.

9:45PM/ET-  CNN shows that Romney, Santorum, and Paul have 23 percent each. Meanwhile, Gingrich has 13 percent, Perry 10 percent, Bachmann 6 percent, and Huntsman 1 percent.

9:41PM/ET- With 27 percent of vote in, Santorum, Romney, and Paul still with 23 percent each. This looks like its going  be a long night.

9:33pm/ET- Interesting as commentators say that Paul is getting more white evangelical voters than Bachmann. Looks like it could be the end for her bid.

9:29PM/ET-  NBC says Santorum, Paul, and Romney all bunched up at 23% with other candidates farther behind.

9:28 PM/ET- Hahaha, my buddy Tom Merolli says Buddy Roemer winning tonight would ‘be the biggest comeback ever’! Unlikely, but as always interesting insight from him.

9:26PM/ET- Oh Chuck Todd the goateed guru with his interactive maps and fusillade of odd parochial stats.

9:19PM/ET- NBC Entrance polling of  White evangelicals and born again Christians. They compose 57% of caucus goers in 2012 compared with 2008  in 60 percent. Santorum is getting the majority of their support with 30 percent  going to him, 21 percent for Paul,14 percent Gingrich, 13 percent Perry, and 13 percent Romney.

9:12PM/ET Earlier Huffington Post Howard Fineman said Bachmann campaign staffers are beginning to talk to her  about dropping out.

9:07PM/ET- NBC corrects itself , former GOP contender turned Libertarian Presidential contender former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson is not dropping his bid and endorsing Paul.

9:07PM/ET- NBC says entrance poll underrepresented Romney and Santorum, and over represented Paul.

8:56PM/ET- NBC says caucuses are too close to call with Santorum and Paul getting 24% each and Romney at 22 percent.

8:56PM/ET- Key voter groups in entrance poll: Paul does best with those who are under 30 (getting 55% of thier vote), Independents (48 percent), and 44% who say he is a true conservative.

Romney does best with those who want a candidate who want a candidate that can beat Obama (48 percent of that group), the majority of High income voters (I couldn’t get the number exactly), and 36 percent of those who want a candidate with business experience over experience in government.  Santorum does best with those looking for a candidate with ‘strong moral guidance’ (35 percent of that vote) and those who decided on a candidate today (11 percent of that vote).

8:48PM/ET- Andrea Mitchell says Gingrich campaign is talking about going after Romney on gun rights.

8:47pm ET-  Strange that  Newt Gingrich who was the most polarizing political figure in the 90s and did more to lower the wuality of political discourse in this country, now bemoans negative attack ads.

8:46PM/ET- NBC says Romney staff say they are confident about chances in Iowa

8:32PM ET- Small numbers, with 1% of precincts reporting NBC News says that Ron Paul has 43% of vote, 14% Romney, Santorum 14%, Perry 19%, Gingrich 10%, Bachmann 0%, Huntsman 0%.

8:27PM/ET- Paul emphasizes anti-war message in closing appeal to caucus goers  shown on CNN calling for ‘conservative constitutional government’ saying that is ‘the road to peace and prosperity’.

8:20 PM/ET- NBC releases first entrance poll of Republican caucus goers. 55 percent are between the age of 30 and 64 years of age, 32 percent age 65 or older, and 13 percent between age 18 and 30.

In terms of those whom what group supports whom, Paul has a dominate lead among young people with 58 percent planning to vote for them, while Romney and Santorum get 15% and 10% respectively. conversely those 65 and older are heading to Romney with 28 percent intending to vote for him,  Santorum 18 percent, and Paul 14 percent.

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