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Romney Edges Out Tea Party-Backed Santorum as Iowa Caucus Kicks Off GOP Primaries

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Winning by just eight votes, Mitt Romney narrowly beat Rick Santorum for the GOP presidential nomination in the closest Iowa Republican caucus in history. Both Romney and Santorum received just more than 25 percent of the vote, while Rep. Ron Paul of Texas placed third with 21 percent. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fourth, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who then announced he is going back to Texas to reassess his campaign. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who won the Iowa straw poll in August, placed sixth with just 5 percent of the vote. After our broadcast, the Associated Press reported a Bachmann adviser says she will end her White House bid. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: We begin the show in Iowa, where Mitt Romney narrowly beat Rick Santorum by just eight votes, in the closest Iowa Republican caucus in history. Both received just over 25 percent of the vote. For Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, Iowa marks a major achievement. For months, he had been languishing near the bottom of the polls in Iowa. He received a big last-minute boost of support from Christian evangelicals.

Texas Congress Member Ron Paul placed third with 21 percent of the vote. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich placed fourth, followed by Texas Governor Rick Perry. After his poor showing, Perry announced he’s going back to Texas to reassess his campaign. As for Gingrich, his popularity plummeted in recent weeks after Iowa voters were bombarded with a series of anti-Gingrich ads funded by outside political groups known as super PACs, run by supporters of Mitt Romney.

Congress Member Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, who won the Iowa straw poll in August and was born in Iowa, placed sixth, with just 5 percent of the vote.

Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman placed seventh. He did not campaign in Iowa, placing all his bets on New Hampshire, where he’s been for months and where the race now heads for the nation’s first primary next Tuesday.

We first turn to Mitt Romney, who spoke to supporters after the caucuses ended last night in Iowa.

MITT ROMNEY: Almost everything the President has done has made it harder for businesses to grow and to hire and to put people back to work. And then, of course, there’s one more aspect of his track record that’s been a failure. He was critical of President Bush for not balancing the budget, for having such large deficits. His deficits have been three times larger or more. He’s on track, by the end of his first term—his only term, by the way—

CROWD: Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt! Mitt!

MITT ROMNEY: He’s on track—he’s on track to put almost as much public debt in place as all the prior presidents combined. This has been a failed presidency. And I’m absolutely convinced that if we want to get jobs again in this country, it’s going to be helpful to have a person who’s had a job in the private sector to create jobs in the private sector. You know, he said three years ago—after being inaugurated, he was on The Today Show, and he said, “Look, if I can’t get this economy turned around in three years, I’ll be looking at a one-term proposition.” And we are here to collect, let me tell you.

I will go to work to get America back to work by making America once again the most attractive place in the world for job creators and innovators and investors and job—that jobs will begin to flow, like they have in the past. I’ll keep our tax rates competitive, get regulators and regulations to see their job is to encourage enterprise, make sure we open up new markets for American goods, and finally, take advantage of the energy resources we have here in oil and gas and coal and nuclear and renewables.

And I’ll also do the work of finally getting ourselves to cut our federal spending, and capping how much we spend, and balancing our budget. I think it’s immoral for us to continue to spend our kids’ future, year after year, trillions of dollars passed on to the next generation, knowing we can’t possibly pay it back. It’s wrong. And under my administration, it’ll end.

AMY GOODMAN: Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney speaking last night in Iowa, where he won the Republican caucus by just eight votes over Rick Santorum. Here is part of what former Senator Santorum told his supporters after the caucuses closed.

RICK SANTORUM: We have two parties who are out talking about how they’re going to solve those problems. One wants to talk about raising taxes on people who have been successful and redistributing money, increasing dependency in this country, promoting more Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps and all sorts of social welfare programs, and passing Obamacare, to provide even more government subsidies, more and more dependency, more and more government—exactly what my grandfather left in 1925.

And then there’s another vision. There’s another vision, a Republican vision, which is, let’s just cut taxes. Let’s just reduce spending, and everyone will be fine. I believe in cutting taxes. I believe in balancing budgets. I propose cutting $5 trillion from this budget over the next five years. I support a balanced budget amendment that puts a cap at 18 percent of GDP as a guarantee of freedom for this country.

But—but I also believe we as Republicans have to look at those who are not doing well in our society by just cutting taxes and balancing budgets. And that’s why I put forth a plan that Iowans responded to. It’s a plan that says, yes, let’s flatten the tax code, get rid of it, replace it with five deductions. Let’s create two rates: 10 and 28. Why 28? If it’s good enough for Ronald Reagan, it’s good enough for me.

Then I take the corporate tax, cut that in half, because it’s the highest in the world and we need to be competitive. But when I traveled around Iowa to the small towns, I found a lot of those small towns were just like the small towns that I traveled around in Pennsylvania. They were towns that were centered around manufacturing and processing, those good jobs that built those towns. And those jobs, slowly, whether it’s in Hamburg, whether it’s in Newton, or anyplace in between, we found those jobs leaving Iowa. Why? Because our workers didn’t want to work? Because our workers weren’t competitive? No. It’s because government made workers uncompetitive by driving up the cost of doing business here. It’s 20 percent more expensive to do manufacturing jobs in this country than it is in the top nine trading partners that we have to compete with. And that’s why we’re losing our jobs.

AMY GOODMAN: And that was Rick Santorum, who lost by just eight votes to Mitt Romney, surging in the polls in the last week.

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Iowa Tea Party Chair on Bachmann, Paul, Santorum’s Diverging Paths and Obama’s Re-Election Challenge

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