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Santorum and Romney Locked in Tight Iowa Race

The Iowa Republican caucus is shaping up as a close three-way race between Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul.

Each of the candidates were within dozens of votes of each other as votes were counted Tuesday night, splitting about 75 percent of the vote evenly.

With 88% of the precincts counted, Santorum was ahead of Romney by just 13 votes, MSNBC reported.

Santorum, the former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania, a strongly pro-Israel family values conservative, was the biggest surprise.

Until last week, he was lagging in polls, but he seemed to benefit from cultural and foreign policy conservatives who had despaired of a welter of other candidates who had challenged Romney, a relative moderate, and then had fallen victim to missteps.

The voting seemed also to belie predictions that Rep. Paul (R-Texas), a libertarian who favors small government and cutting foreign spending including assistance to Israel, would be harmed by a barrage of negative attacks from other camps.

Paul appeared to attract strong support of younger voters and independents.

Romney, the former Massachussets governor, has attracted the strongest Jewish support among Republicans, both in donations and in his advisers.

He has been the putative frotntrunner for months, but has failed so far to pull decisively ahead of the pack.

Romney’s campaign is now focused on pulling out a decisive win in New Hampshire, where voting takes place on Jan. 10.

Candidates faring less well in Iowa included Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House of Representatives speaker; Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) and Texas Gov. Rick Perry. All three had at various times during 2011 led polling.

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