Republican leaders, political experts defend Iowa Caucuses after - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Republican leaders, political experts defend Iowa Caucuses after errors

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IOWA CITY (KWWL) -

What once appeared a win for Mitt Romney is now being declared a victory for Rick Santorum- by 34 votes.

"There's no question in our mind the winner of the certified vote total is Rick Santorum," said Matt Strawn, Iowa GOP Chairman.

Iowa caucus results are not official until the thousands of volunteers running the more than 17 hundred precincts across the state turn in their certified forms.

Officials say we'll never know the results from 8 of those precincts.  The official forms were not turned in and will not be recovered.

"Any time you have a vote margin that's within the hundredths of a percentage point, there's always the possibility that human error comes in to play," Strawn said.

Critics say the errors are damaging Iowa's credibility. 

University of Iowa political science professor Cary Covington disagrees.

"If you are already against the caucuses, if you're already against Iowa going first, this is just ammunition for your argument, but I don't think this is going to persuade anybody one way or the other," Covington said.

In fact, Covington says the change in the Iowa winner will do little to impact the overall race.  Iowa made its impact on caucus night.

"Iowa was important for Tuesday night.  A winner was declared.  It had its effects.  Santorum doing very well helped him," Covington said.  "If he had been declared the winner then, it would have helped him more, but being declared the winner now is not doing him any good in South Carolina."

Party leaders say the Iowa caucus has done its job, beginning the process of narrowing down the presidential field.

"I think it really it succeeded because you could have a multi-million dollar volunteer effort bring forward a candidate who wasn't expected to do well, and that can really only happen in a place like Iowa," said Eric Rosenthal, Linn County Republican Party Caucus Chairman.

South Carolina holds its primary this weekend, where Romney has a substantial lead over Newt Gingrich.

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