We'll never know for sure who actually won the Iowa caucuses. After a recount, Rick Santorum was found to have finished ahead of declared winner Mitt Romney by 34 votes, but the results from eight precincts are missing and will never be certified—meaning "it’s a split decision," one GOP official says. Adds another, "The comments I made at 1:30am Jan. 4 congratulating both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum still apply." In a statement acknowledging the new results, Romney called it a "virtual tie" and said Santorum had a "strong performance," the AP reports.
The recount actually shifts numbers downward for both Santorum (29,839 total votes, down by 168) and Romney (29,805, down by 210), the Des Moines Register reports in its exclusive look at the numbers. Strategists expect Santorum to jump on the news and use it for momentum ahead of Saturday's South Carolina primary, but, says one Iowa Republican operative, the new results "won't change the current political narrative" or impact Romney's "status as the national frontrunner." The Iowa Republican Party will release the official results at 9:15am today, NPR notes. (Read more Iowa caucuses stories.)