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Romney wins Iowa GOP caucus by eight votes

CREATED Jan 2, 2012 - UPDATED: Jan 4, 2012

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Check out Charles Benson reporting from Ron Paul's, Mitt Romney's and Rick Santorum's rallies in Iowa as well as a behind the scenes look at the Iowa Caucus under Associated Videos.

DES MOINES, Iowa - Early Wednesday morning, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney was declared the winner of the Iowa Republican presidential caucus by the closest margin in the history of that election: eight votes.

Romney and Rick Santorum waged a seesaw battle for supremacy late Tuesday night, the opening round of a campaign to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama.

Each collected about 25 percent of the votes.

Texas Rep. Ron Paul ran third, with about 21 percent of the votes.

It was a fitting conclusion to a race as jumbled as any since Iowa gained the lead-off position in presidential campaigns four decades ago.

An estimated 110,000 Iowa Republicans voted on Tuesday night - slightly more than half of the population of Racine County.

Yet their decisions could provide a key influence in the Republican race.

"I'm torn between Mitt Romney, like Santorum a little bit lately, and I've always liked Newt (Gingrich) and his historical intelligence," explained Kurt Stone to TODAY'S TMJ4's Charles Benson.  Stone was undecided when he arrived at the event.

Some people, like Hillary Hansen, knew who they would vote for.

"A lot of people can say they voted for conservative principals," explained Hansen.  "Rick Santorum has acted on them."

Speakers at the events included Ron Paul's son, Robert.

"My dad has never voted for an unbalanced budget," said Robert.  "He's never voted to raise your taxes, and he will defend this country with the Constitution."

Benson followed the leading Republican candidates and has updates from the latest rallies.

Benson reports that on Tuesday he went to a place called "Rock the Caucus" at a local high school where they saw GOP presidential candidates Rick Santorum, Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul. 

Benson says that Texas Rep. Ron Paul rallied a lot of the youth around his policies and his message about pulling the troops out of foreign counties.  Benson said the real talk and rallies were supporters for Ron Paul.

In Iowa, if you are 17 now, but 18 in November, you can participate in the Iowa Caucus. 

Benson's first stop Monday was in Dubuque where he met with Mitt Romney.

Aides of Romney say the representatives will focus on Romney's business credentials and urge Iowans to vote for him because Democrats have shown that they think the former Massachusetts governor would be the president's toughest opponent

Then Benson went to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Ron Paul was introduced by his son, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul. 

Paul reportedly stoked big crowds packed with younger supporters on a five-city air tour of Iowa, re-emerging in the state he'd left for two days as a leader in state polls but with his support leveling.

Ron Paul finished second in the Ames Straw Poll with 4,671 votes, narrowly losing to Michele Bachmann by 152 votes or 9 tenths of 1 percent.

Benson's final stop was in Altoona for an event with Santorum.

The former Pennsylvania senator says he's become the target of increased criticism because his poll numbers have risen. He was spending the day before Iowa's caucuses campaigning in central Iowa.