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Romney wins by a whisker in Iowa

Republican frontrunner beats Rick Santorum by just eight votes in first primary.

After a farcical night in Iowa, with some votes lost and others miscounted, Mitt Romney has been declared the winner of the first Republican primary. The former Massachusetts governor received 30,015 votes, with Rick Santorum just eight behind on 30,007. The proportional allocation rules mean that both candidates, plus third-placed Ron Paul, will get the same number of delegates (seven each, with two for Newt Gingrich and two for Rick Perry) but, as he both hoped and expected, Romney gets to call himself "the winner".

Attention will now move to New Hampshire, where Romney has a huge lead in the polls but his status as the frontrunner means he is vulnerable to attack from all sides. In particular, the Romney camp will be troubled by the speed with which Santorum, with a fraction of his rival's resources, closed the gap in the polls. As this Buzzfeed chart shows, Romnney's campaign spent $156 per vote, while Santorum spent just $21 per vote.

Meanwhile, Rick Perry is retreating to his governor's mansion in Texas to ponder "whether there is a path forward for myself in this race." We won't know for certain until tomorrow but it sounds very much as if he will drop out.

Below is the result in full.

Mitt Romney 30,015 votes (24.6%)

Rick Santorum 30,007 (24.5%)

Ron Paul 26,219 (21.4%)

Newt Gingrich 16,251 (13.3%)

Rick Perry 12,604 (10.3%)

Michele Bachmann 6,073 (5.0%)