Who won the Iowa caucuses? Er ...

On the night of the Iowa caucuses, the state GOP reported that Mitt Romney had won … by eight votes.  In terms of delegate distribution, that would have produced a tie, if in fact the Iowa caucuses assigned delegates at all to the national Republican convention, which it most assuredly does not.  It’s a non-binding preference poll; Iowa’s delegates get selected at the state convention months from now, and the preference poll has no role in that selection process.

Thanks to the close vote, people have waited for the certified count to see who really won the Iowa caucuses.  And the answer is — er, we still don’t really know:

It’s a tie for the ages.

There are too many holes in the certified totals from the Iowa caucuses to know for certain who won, but Rick Santorum wound up with a 34-vote advantage.

Results from eight precincts are missing — any of which could hold an advantage for Mitt Romney — and will never be recovered and certified, Republican Party of Iowa officials told The Des Moines Register on Wednesday.

GOP officials discovered inaccuracies in 131 precincts, although not all the changes affected the two leaders. Changes in one precinct alone shifted the vote by 50 — a margin greater than the certified tally.

The certified numbers: 29,839 for Santorum and 29,805 for Romney. The turnout: 121,503.

It’s not a surprise that the ultra-thin gap of eight votes on caucus night didn’t hold up, but it’s tough to swallow the fact that there will always be a question mark hanging over this race, politics insiders said.

Santorum can now claim to have won the Iowa caucuses.  That and $4.50 will buy you a skinny peppermint mocha latte in South Carolina, where Santorum’s status has been slipping ever since he decided to tilt at a few windmills in New Hampshire.  Just as the actual Iowa caucus night was a virtual tie, the same still holds now.  Iowa benefited both Santorum and Romney, and that won’t change, even if the impact for Santorum turned out to be rather short-lived.

The better question is this: why should we pay this much attention to a non-binding caucus that can’t get a close count straight?