Iowa Caucus Results: Romney Edges Santorum by 8 Votes

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Romney is expected to win the New Hampshire primary, setting a dramatic stage for the South Carolina contest on Jan. 21. William Galston, a veteran of Democratic presidential campaigns, predicted late Tuesday that if Gingrich stays in the race through the South Carolina primary, Romney could benefit if conservative voters split their votes among more than one conservative.

"The remaining question is whether Santorum will be able to rally the anti-Romney forces in South Carolina," Galston said. "If not, Romney's the nominee-early."

Democrats used the Iowa caucus as a chance to sharpen the focus on Romney.

"After five years of campaigning and adopting policies far to the right of Rick Perry, Rick Santorum, and Newt Gingrich on issues ranging from economic philosophy, to immigration, to social issues, Mitt Romney still failed to convince voters that he could be trusted to help middle class families and those still trying to reach the middle class," Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said in a statement.

In the ballroom of a Des Moines hotel, hundreds of Romney supporters cheered as they watched the returns. Campaign aides said the entire family was watching the results "intently" as he and Santorum were separated by just a handful of votes.

More than a hundred jubilant supporters jammed into Paul's party at the Marriott in Ankeny, about 20 minutes north of Des Moines, to hear he claim there "were essentially three winners" tonight.

"We're ready and raring to move on to the next stop, which is New Hampshire," he said.

Gingrich said he would continue to fight in the New Hampshire primary. "We are not going to go out and run nasty ads ... but I do reserve the right to tell the truth," he said, suggesting the truth could seem to be negative.

Gingrich also took a swipe at Paul, saying some of Paul's views are "stunningly dangerous for the United States of America."

Romney did well among voters looking for the candidate who they think is best able to beat Obama, which one-third of Iowa voters polled said they considered a leading candidate attribute. Romney also did better among older voters who make up a key part of the Iowa electorate.

What could be a troublesome signal for the former Massachusetts governor moving forward is that he did less well among very conservatives this year than he did in 2008, suggesting he's still got a long way to go to close the deal with the conservative base.

Read more about the early entrance poll results here.

Paul did well among independents who came out in much larger numbers than usual. Entrance polls found that 24 percent of tonight participants -- twice as many as 2008 -- identified themselves as independents. The Texas congressman also did particularly well with young participants and the four in 10 voters who were attending their first caucus. But it was not enough to propel the libertarian-leaning candidate to first place.

Romney watched the returns come on TV at the hotel Fort Des Moines with one of his sons and advisers. His wife, Ann, and their three other sons were making their way back here from the precincts where they all spoke on behalf of Romney.

Romney made an aggressive last-minute push to lure undecided voters, logging more miles in Iowa in the last seven days than in the entire primary season combined.

On Tuesday, he focused his campaign on attacking Obama.

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