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Santorum may have won Iowa; Romney calls results ‘a virtual tie’

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(Richard Shiro/AP)

Rick Santorum may have won the Iowa caucuses after all—but we'll apparently never know.

Certified results released Thursday morning, first reported by the Des Moines Register, show the final count of votes from Jan. 3's Republican presidential caucus ended with Santorum a whopping 34 votes ahead of Mitt Romney—with 29,839 votes compared to Romney's 29,805.

But Republican officials told the paper that votes from eight precincts are missing and will never be certified so the party is expected to render a "split decision." The Iowa Republican Party is expected to make the official announcement later this morning.

Romney is already spinning the news.

In a statement emailed to reporters just after 6 a.m. ET, the former Massachusetts governor emphasized the split decision. "The results from Iowa caucus night revealed a virtual tie," Romney said in the statement. "I would like to thank the Iowa Republican Party for their careful attention to the caucus process, and we once again recognize Rick Santorum for his strong performance in the state. The Iowa caucuses, with record turnout, were a great start to defeating President Obama in Iowa and elsewhere in the general election."

Iowa GOP officials declined to hold a vote recount despite the narrow gap of Romney's victory. Questions about the vote tally, however, were raised the morning after the caucuses. Edward L. True, an official vote counter for the Washington Wells precinct in Appanoose County, claimed the party had misreported his accounting of the votes, which would have stripped 20 votes from Romney and handed the victory to Santorum. True filed a sworn affidavit two days after the caucuses affirming his count of the votes.

While addressing supporters in Laurens, S.C. on Wednesday, Santorum voiced confidence in the notion that he may have won in the state. In 2011, Santorum spent more time than any candidate in Iowa, holding more than 380 townhall meetings.

"We're feeling very optimistic that this idea of inevitability of Mitt Romney as a candidate wasn't so inevitable," Santorum said. "So much for two and 0 heading into South Carolina."

On Thursday, Santorum spokesperson Hogan Gidley told Yahoo News in a statement: "We've had two early state contests with two winners - and the narrative that Governor Romney and the media have been touting of 'inevitability' has been destroyed... This latest defeat of Governor Romney in Iowa is just the beginning, and Rick Santorum is committed to continuing the fight as the clear, consistent conservative voice in this race."

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