Iowa Caucus LIVE BLOG

NewsTalkFlorida’s Political Correspondent Shawna Vercher will be covering the events of Iowa and the Caucus LIVE throughout the evening.  Check back often for updates and be sure to add your thoughts and predictions by leaving a comment.

Want to talk about the election and other headlines? Listen to The Shawna Vercher Show on Saturdays at 10AM EST on AM 820 News.

At 1 AM we have no official winner, but Google has called the race for Santorum. As I sign off for the night/morning, here are my winners for the night:

1) Gingrich – He did not place in the top three, but managed to seize a new label as the GOP underdog fighting for system reform. Anyone familiar with his history understands the size of that feat.

2) Voter Advocacy Activists – The case has been made (again) that every vote counts. Count on mobilization to take center stage for a number of organizations, including of course the Obama campaign.

3) Santorum – It goes without saying, but even if he ends up with a narrow loss the Santorum camp should be extremely happy. He was never considered a contender, had basically no money, and was essentially ignored. Now we will see how he handles the proverbial microscope in the weeks to come.

See you Saturday at 10AM on AM 820 News!

12:49 AM – A bit of inside gossip for you: Romney is worried about being compared to Obama so his campaign supposedly rushed in and removed his teleprompters at the last minute. The result? Five uncomfortable impromptu minutes of him reciting song lyrics to America the Beautiful. I’m couldn’t make this up.

12:44 AM – Romney’s speech focuses on the Obama administration, essentially attempting to assume the role of the national nominee and not acknowledge the strength of the other campaigns. It may work when he is the only one at the microphone, but the other candidates are certainly going to go after him hard – including Gingrich who has declared Vendetta Mitt.

12:36 AM – And as Santorum enters minute TWENTY of his speech right now, Howard Fineman says that it’s to irritate Romney for making him go first. Funny and petty – I appreciate that move.

12:31 AM – O…M…G…only five votes difference right now. “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

12:30 AM – Santorum says he can win versus Romney in a national contest. With crowd assistance, cites “Romneycare” as a reason.

12:27 AM – As Santorum continues speech, Romney continues to pull (slightly) away. 98% of the results in and Romney is ahead by 41. It’s not a high number, but Santorum is running out of room to make up any ground.

12:25 AM – Santorum derides the “Obama plan” of providing subsidies…to a room full of people likely benefiting from farm subsidies. Tentative applause as a result.

12:19 AM – Rick Santorum takes the stage prior to Romney, though results are not final and etiquette dictates that the winner speaks last.

12:09 AM – As race tightens even more, Iowa GOP states that it would be “impossible” to do a recount.

12:00 AM – BREAKING: Perry announces he will return to Texas to “determine if there is a path forward for myself in this campaign”. Earlier speculation had him continuing through at least until South Carolina.

11:57 PM – The Democratic party releases some of its own numbers for the night and signed up over 7,500 volunteers for the General election in Iowa and had over half a million grass roots donors nationwide. Whichever candidate wins will have a tough race ahead.

11:52 PM – Perry making speech, citing his background running for Agricultural Commissioner in Texas in the 80’s and 90’s and how Iowa reminds him of those days. The strategist in me was wondering why he didn’t use that line more during the campaign until I remembered…he was a Democrat then.

11:41 PM – Fox reporting that Iowa GOP has already stated that there will be no recount because there is no provision for it in the regulations. Will the winner be declared outright tonight and, if so, will either campaign demand a recount be considered?

11:37 PM – Political analysis: Bachmann focuses her entire speech on defeating President Obama instead of targeting fellow GOP nominees. The logical reason is that she is auditioning for the role of Vice President.

11:34 PM – Bachmann speech, “Who knows? There may even be another Michele in the White House in 2012.” Indicates that she will carry on.

11:33 PM – Bachmann taking the stage now…

11:31 PM – Santorum leads Romney by 134 votes, a large margin by tonight’s standards. At 93% reporting it’s far from over, but it’s enough to dismantle Romney’s “inevitable” brand.

11:27 PM – As we await the determination of first place, the other spots are starting to settle out.  Paul vows to continue, and Gingrich says he’s ready for both New Hampshire and the debates. Perry supporters are saying that he will continue, but it has not been made official. No word yet from Bachmann and Huntsman lies in wait in NH hoping for a major upset.

11:24 PM – Gingrich gears up for fight against Romney and says that he will not run a “gotcha” campaign, but “reserves the right to tell the truth”. Says that if the truth seems negative then that is more of a reflection of the candidate and not his campaign.

11:21 PM – Gingrich calls Ron Paul’s views on foreign policy “stunningly dangerous for the survival of the United States”.

11:19 PM – Gingrich addressing his supporters, saying that the Republicans need to have their great debate as a party before they face the debate against Barack Obama. Congratulates Rick Santorum on a “great, positive campaign”.

11:16 PM – The buzz online is not about Paul’s speech, but about the supporter he had on stage with him. The gentleman endorsed Ron Paul openly in a political setting while in his military uniform, possibly violating protocol.

11:13 PM – Ron Paul tells supporters that he will continue campaign, that he has no doubt about being able to raise the money and absolutely no doubt about the volunteers.

11:12 PM – Listen up future voters!! 89% reporting and 25 votes make the difference between first and second place.  Yet another case where every vote counts.

11:08 PM – Paul: “Let’s try obeying the constitution…it’s not the government’s job to invade our privacy or spend our money.”

11:05 PM – Paul to supporters: “No other campaign has people like you working hard and with this enthusiasm.” States that only one other campaign tonight can go national.

11:04 PM – Ron Paul addressing his supporters…

11:00 PM – 88% reporting and THIRTEEN votes are the difference between Romney and Santorum. To quote a Twitter user, that’s one caucus worker’s sneeze making the difference between the two piles of paper ballots.

10:54 PM – With 87% reporting, less than fifty votes separate Romney and Santorum.

10:51 PM – Participation in 2008 was around 119K. Participation today is going to be around 121K. Spin room warning: Republicans saying that turnout is “better than we even had in 2008, proving our voters are motivated” while Democrats state that turnout is “practically the same as 2008 because they are not motivated”.

10:49 PM – THIS JUST IN – Overall caucus still too close to call between Romney and Santorum, but NBC is projecting that Ron Paul will finish third.

10:46 PM – Realizing that the race is close in this state for Romney, keep in mind that the Iowa caucus-goers are 99% Caucasian, 64% supporters of the Tea Party, and 73% make below $100K. In a more diverse and moderate field, Romney should theoretically blow past everyone else.

10:45 PM – At 60% reported the top three are still within 2,500 votes of each other. Santorum 26%, Romney 24%, Paul 22%.

10:44 PM – Don’t count him out yet. Rick Perry says he is in the race until at least South Carolina.

10:35 PM – Playing the Jeopardy theme song in my mind as we cross the fifty percent threshold and are no closer to being able to declare this thing.

10:10 PM – Romney campaign is reminding people that he only had five staff members in the state this time around. Translation: We did this well and we weren’t even trying.

10:08 PM – It may not prove to be a big turnout for Governor Rick Perry, but he will soon be a popular guy among the Republican Party leadership. Speculation has already begun regarding who he will throw his support (and his money) behind.

10:05 PM – In the largest spread of the night, and with 45% reporting: Santorum 25%, Romney 24% and Paul 22%.  Gingrich is at 14%, Perry at 11% and Bachmann at 6%. Both Huntsman and Cain have less than one percent.

10:01 PM – If you are wondering why the reporting has seemed to slow down a bit, the Republican party has announced that they are slowing the count to be sure that everything is as accurate as possible.  Best tweet of the night so far, “Who wins in the three-way caucus tie? New Hampshire.”

9:57 PM – Al Sharpton says that Democrats should be routing for Santorum to stay in the race as long as possible because it takes the Republican national conversation away from the middle, where the most votes are “up for grabs”.

9:39 PM – With thirty percent reporting, Romney leads by only 50 delegates out of over thirty-one thousand total delegates.

9:35 PM – For those people that are wondering why the Iowa Caucus matters, here’s one thing to consider. Right now the race is a three-way tie between a moderate fiscal conservative (Romney), a far-right social conservative (Santorum) and a libertarian (Paul). Essentially, this is not just a battle for the nomination. This is a war over what brand the GOP will wear for the next decade.

9:27 PM – Time to grab some coffee and stretch your legs a bit. With over twenty percent reporting we are… still tied.

9:22 PM – Intensive polling shows that Romney leads among wealthy voters, Santorum leads Christian conservatives and Paul leads youth and independents – leaving one to wonder how much money was spent on said “intensive polling”.

9:16 PM – Much talk about Bachmann throwing in the towel as the Ames Straw Poll winner is currently only doing better than Jon Huntsman and Herman Cain.

9:13 PM – So how do the candidates feel like they are doing? Ron Paul is feeling like first place might be a possibility. Santorum, playing it cautious, says he would be happy in the top three. Romney keeps it low-key, saying he’s essentially happy to be included. Gingrich, in a more telling sign, sends out an official message that he’s moving on to New Hampshire.

9:08 PM – A three-way tie with fifteen percent reporting. At which point are Romney, Paul and Santorum forced to settle this with a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors?

9:06 PM – Reports starting to leak that Bachmann is blaming her results in part on her gender. In other words, “Some people didn’t vote for me because I’m a woman.” I’ll save my comments on that one for Saturday’s show 😉

9:02 PM – Eight percent reporting and Ron Paul leads Romney and Santorum by ONE percentage point. Suddenly the idea that these are all paper scraps being manually tallied becomes unnerving.

9:00 PM – Fox News officially predicts that Bachmann will come in last this evening.

8:54 PM – With four six percent reporting, the news is the same now that it was at the beginning of the night. Paul, Romney and Santorum are practically tied for first.

8:52 PM – Evidence that the world is watching – The UK Telegraph covering the caucuses in real time online.

8:48 PM – Cain supporters still keeping hope alive. Two delegates cast their votes for Herman Cain, despite his withdrawal from the race weeks ago. Fans of irony yearning for the total number of votes for Cain to be 999.

8:46 PM – Romney’s camp now saying that they consider any result a victory.  Yesterday he decisively declared, “We will win Iowa.” Hmm…wondering what data the Romney campaign has right now?

8:43 PM – Two percent reporting – Santorum leads slightly with 27%. Ron Paul 23%, Romney 18%, Gingrich 17%.

8:38 PM – Wow! He leads in one precinct and look at the swagger! Ron Paul’s campaign takes a shot at Jon Huntsman on Twitter:

@jonhuntsman we found your one Iowa voter, he’s in Linn precinct 5 you might want to call him and say thanks.

8:32 PM – FIRST RESULTS IN – Ron Paul 43%, Perry 20%, Santorum and Romney at 15%, Gingrich at 10%. Only one percent reporting.

8:29 PM – The caucuses begin with speeches by supporters for each of the candidates making a speech and a case for support. Numerous precincts are stating on Twitter that either Perry or Gingrich do not have a single supporter standing up for them.

8:25 PM – And with the bad comes the good: Reports of Ron Paul using buses to bring in loads of supporters to the caucus, a strategy some claim is responsible for Obama’s victory. No word of Romney supporters being transported en masse.

8:20 PM – Bad news for Ron Paul? MSNBC reporting that only 13% of caucus-goers are age 30 and under, a known strong base for Paul.

8:17 PM – And the partisan attacks are officially on! New voter registration lines are long and GOP supporters are crying foul – concerned that Democrats are re-registering with new party affiliation to skew results.  In Iowa it is legal to register and/or change party affiliation the night of the caucus.  The rules are established by the Republican party and may be evaluated next time if this holds true. Will report more if any facts surface on this issue.

8:13 PM – RT @thinkprogress CNN entrance poll has Romney in 3rd place or worse among all income groups except $100K+

8:08 PM – The first entrance polls are indicating 56% male and 44% female caucus goers. Look for pundits to over-analyze that for the next twenty minutes.

8:04 PM – MSNBC states that “you can’t buy Iowa…people want you to shake their hands.” Newt Gingrich, angry at the Romney Super PACs and their HUGE ad buys would beg to differ.

7:58 PM – Various locations already alerting people that registration lines are long and that caucuses may not start on time. Also, a call from different attendees for consideration with the number of chairs available.

RT

stevensdc Craig Stevens
Give up your seat to a senior citizen or pregnant woman... #courtesy They've run
out of chairs at my #iacaucus site

Promises to be a long night!

7:56 PM – It was only a matter of time before the political junkies (like myself) got nostalgic. Video of the infamous “Howard Dean Scream” making the rounds.

7:52 PM – Santorum’s closing remarks go back to his roots: his stance against gay marriage. For those wondering why the economy seems to be a second-tier issue in this race, Iowa has a lower unemployment rate than the national average at just over 5%.

7:49 PM – If you’re looking for a prediction other than from the pundits, take a look at what the bookies are saying. Intrade predicts Romney with 41% odds, gives Ron Paul 29% chance and Rick Santorum at 30%.

7:45 PM – Multiple reports from the field that more chairs are being moved into some of the caucus locations, indicated that organizers anticipate a high turnout.

7:41 PM – Twitter is BUZZING with updates on the caucus, an average of hundreds of posts every minute.  The hash tag most people are using is #IAcaucus from what I’ve seen.

7:33 PM – Bachmann making final pitch in Black Hawk County, Iowa. Vows to stop, “Barack Obama from implementing socialism,” and arguably more shocking, openly states her age (55) for the crowd 😉

7:31 PM – Former Democratic Chair and Presidential Candidate Howard Dean predicts a Santorum win.

7:21 PM – Rick Santorum taking heat from various organizations for comments made earlier in the day about entitlement programs where he stated:

“I don’t want to make black people’s lives better by giving them somebody else’s money; I want to give them the opportunity to go out and earn the money.”

Story is breaking late in the game and probably will not affect tonight’s results much, but will definitely come back to haunt him in other states if he does well in the caucus.

Less than ten percent of all welfare recipients in Iowa are African-American.

7:19 PM – The running theme for tonight: nobody has any idea what is going to happen. Polls are essentially tied with three top candidates – Romney, Paul and Santorum – and 40% of people entering caucuses are openly stating they have not yet made up their minds.

7:14 PM – According to the Des Moines Register, Rick Perry shed a tear when discussing the sacrifice of veterans.  This is the third candidate to cry on the trail this week.  Gingrich was emotional when discussing his mother and Santorum wept when discussing the passing of a child.

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News Talk Florida Staff