Iowa close contest kicks off primary season in US

Washington: The Iowa vote to pick a challenger for the 2012 presidential poll was turning out to be a three-way contest between Mitt Romney, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum, with the three Republican hopefuls locked in a close race in the first state to go for a nomination ballot. With nearly half of the votes being counted in the Iowa Caucuses, it former Governor of Massachusetts Romney, Texas Congressman Paul and former Pennsylvania Senator Santorum were head to head in the tight race.

Fox news reported that it was too close a call as the three candidates battled for lead. "With 49 per cent of the precincts reporting, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum and former Massachusetts Gov Mitt Romney are virtually tied in the Iowa caucuses," flashed CNN several hours after the Caucus started.

At the end of the nearly half of votes being counted, Santorum had taken a slight lead over the other two, while at the end of the one-third of the votes being counted, Romney was a slight ahead of the former Pennsylvania Senator.

Paul was a close third to Romney and Santorum with the votes percentage of the three candidates ranging from 22-25 per cent of the total votes in Iowa caucuses.
The results started pouring within hours after hundreds of Iowans arrived at caucus sites across the state to vote for their favourite Republican candidate who would challenge Barack Obama in the presidential election slated for November later this year. As many as seven Republican leaders are in the fray, which includes at least three present or former Governors, and four present or former lawmakers.

The other candidates in fray are Texas Governor Rick Perry; Minnesota Congresswoman, Michele Bachmann; former Utah Governor, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker of the US House of Representatives.

More than 100,000 Iowans are expected to cast ballots at 809 caucus sites, representing 1774 precincts throughout Iowa. Till the time of 15 per cent of the total votes counted from these caucuses, Paul had got 24 per cent of the total votes, he was closely followed by Romney and Santorum each with 23 per cent.

"Three sharply different Republican candidates were on course to split the bulk of votes in Tuesday`s Iowa caucuses as a chaotic campaign season culminated with the first real ballots cast," The Washington Post reported.

"GOP presidential candidates Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul were in a three-way race for first place in the Iowa caucuses — the first contest in the 2012 caucus and primary season — early results showed," said CNN.