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Mitt Romney Beats Rick Santorum by 8 Votes

11:34 p.m. Pacific: The Republicans of Iowa just settled it: Mitt Romney wins, beating Rick Santorum by a mere eight votes, the smallest margin ever in the caucuses.

The victory gives Romney huge momentum. He is off to New Hampshire, where he leads by an insurmountable margin, to receive an endorsement from the last GOP nominee, Sen. John McCain. Romney paid dearly for the win, as he and so-called super PACs on his behalf poured millions into Iowa, but the gory details of victory are soon forgotten and in seven days Mitt Romney is likely to deliver his second celebratory speech in as many weeks.

Earlier:

9:04 p.m. Pacific: Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum are separated by a razor-thin margin. Meanwhile, Rick Perry is headed back to Texas to reassess after a disappointing finish.

Newt Gingrich vowed to press on to New Hampshire, but not before congratulating Santorum on a “positive” campaign and slamming Romney for embracing attack ads. Ron Paul seemed pleased with his third-place result, even though many thought he might win the contest. Michele Bachmann can’t seem to decide whether she wants to keep running or not.

We’re going to stay up all night to see if Jon Huntsman can break into the 800s. Right now he has just 702 votes.

7:59 p.m. Pacific: With Ron Paul, Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney in a near tie for much of the night, it has now turned into a two-man race with Romney and Santorum fighting for every vote.

7:46 p.m. Pacific: Mitt Romney has pulled into a small lead at 25 percent, followed by Rick Santorum at 24 percent and Ron Paul, who slipped to 21 percent.

6:59 p.m. Pacific: The latest batch of numbers show Ron Paul dropping to third place just behind Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, who are tied at 24 percent. The Iowa GOP website shows 31 counties not yet reporting.

6:46 p.m. Pacific: The Iowa GOP still has this as a three-way tie among Paul, Romney and Santorum, but CNN reports Romney now commands a gigantic 1 point lead.

6:30 p.m. Pacific: As of this posting, Ron Paul has dropped a point and it’s a three-way tie with Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum at 23 percent each.

6:15 p.m. Pacific: Early results and CNN entrance polls have Ron Paul in the lead with 24 percent of the vote, followed by Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum tying for second place at 23 percent. Looks like it’s going to be a close one.

5 p.m. Pacific: Right now Republicans and other crossover voters are gathering in rooms across Iowa to make the state’s Republican choice for president. You can track the results on Iowa’s GOP page here and of course we’ll let you know who won just as soon as we find out.

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