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%)

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

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Theresa May knows she's talking nonsense - here's why she's doing it

The Prime Minister's argument increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in her words - the Tories your vote.

Good morning.  Angela Merkel and Theresa May are more similar politicians than people think, and that holds true for Brexit too. The German Chancellor gave a speech yesterday, and the message: Brexit means Brexit.

Of course, the emphasis is slightly different. When May says it, it's about reassuring the Brexit elite in SW1 that she isn't going to backslide, and anxious Remainers and soft Brexiteers in the country that it will work out okay in the end.

When Merkel says it, she's setting out what the EU wants and the reality of third country status outside the European Union.  She's also, as with May, tilting to her own party and public opinion in Germany, which thinks that the UK was an awkward partner in the EU and is being even more awkward in the manner of its leaving.

It's a measure of how poor the debate both during the referendum and its aftermath is that Merkel's bland statement of reality - "A third-party state - and that's what Britain will be - can't and won't be able to have the same rights, let alone a better position than a member of the European Union" - feels newsworthy.

In the short term, all this helps Theresa May. Her response - delivered to a carefully-selected audience of Leeds factory workers, the better to avoid awkward questions - that the EU is "ganging up" on Britain is ludicrous if you think about it. A bloc of nations acting in their own interest against their smaller partners - colour me surprised!

But in terms of what May wants out of this election - a massive majority that gives her carte blanche to implement her agenda and puts Labour out of contention for at least a decade - it's a great message. It increases the sense that this is a time to "lend" - in May's words - the Tories your vote. You may be unhappy about the referendum result, you may usually vote Labour - but on this occasion, what's needed is a one-off Tory vote to make Brexit a success.

May's message is silly if you pay any attention to how the EU works or indeed to the internal politics of the EU27. That doesn't mean it won't be effective.

Stephen Bush is special correspondent at the New Statesman. His daily briefing, Morning Call, provides a quick and essential guide to British politics.

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