Republican race may be closest in history of Iowa caucuses

The 2012 Iowa caucuses may produce the narrowest margin of victory in history for the Republican contest there, with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum vying for the top spot in the first nominating event of the presidential election.

With 92% of precincts reporting as of 10:21 p.m. Central Time, Romney and Santorum were separated by just 13 votes, each just under 25% of the total vote.

The closest GOP contest in the history of Iowa’s leadoff contest was 1980, when George H. W. Bush edged Ronald Reagan 31.6%-29.5%.

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In 1996, Bob Dole won by 3 percentage points over Pat Buchanan, according to results provided by the Des Moines Register.

Given the tight race, several news organizations have said they probably won’t project a final winner until all the results are in. But NBC, CNN and Fox News each narrowed the finalists to Romney and Santorum, projecting a third-place finish for Texas Rep. Ron Paul.

Paul nonetheless vowed “We will go on” as he spoke to supporters in Iowa tonight, saying he had nothing to be ashamed of.

“This movement is going to continue, and we are going to keep scoring, just as we have tonight,” he said.