South Carolina uncertainty

Uncertainty is the theme of the morning. Iowa can’t tell who won the caucuses. We don’t know where the supporters of Texas Gov. Rick Perry will go. Perry has decided to end his run and endorse Newt Gingrich before he has to endure another debate. We don’t know what Marianne Gingrich has to say or how it will impact voters, if at all. What we can say is virtually none of the public polling is meaningful — everything is in flux.

The Des Moines Register reports:

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.

It’s appalling that the state can’t run a contest and determine a winner. In the list of reasons (it’s unrepresentative; the turnout is tiny) to dump the Iowa caucuses from its first-place spot, this should rank high. Fortunately for both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, they both played this as a tie on election night and thereafter, which is a good reminder to pols not to over-interpret inconclusive results.

As for Perry’s departure, it is hardly a surprise, although it is curious that he did not exit earlier, giving his opponents time to vie for the votes or to allow the election returns to speak for themselves. It was like so much about Perry’s run — amateurish. His voters are likely hard-core not-Romney people, so whatever remaining voters he still had will likely be divided between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. His endorsement means about as much as Jon Huntsman’s — that is to say, practically nothing.

And then there is Marianne Gingrich. On one level, you can say those who would be most moved by her views on her cheating ex-husband are already opposed to him. But voters are funny people. They can know something vaguely or generally but when confronted with evidence of that reality nevertheless still react strongly. Gingrich risks losing wavering evangelicals and those voters whose are preoccupied with electability.

This is an election, not unlike the Iowa caucuses where the result is not known in advance. We can only hope we’ll know the results after the counting is done.

Jennifer Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.

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