Romney doesn't declare outright victory

DES MOINES, Iowa – Mitt Romney congratulated Rick Santorum and Ron Paul for their strong performances in the Iowa caucuses Tuesday night, then pivoted to attacks on President Obama in his almost-victory speech.

The former Massachusetts governor, speaking as the race remained a virtual tie, didn't declare an outright victory. He and Santorum flipped back and forth between first and second all night with a handful of votes separating the two.

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“We don’t know what the final vote tally is going to be, but congratulations to Rick Santorum, this has been a great victory for him and for his effort. He’s worked very hard in Iowa. We also feel this has been a great victory for us here. Ron Paul as well, Ron Paul’s had a great night,” Romney told a room full of supporters at his Iowa headquarters. “All three of us will be campaigning very hard to make sure we restore the heart and soul of the entire nation.”

In the final count, Romney beat Santorum by an eight-vote margin.

He also sought to emphasize that he did as well in Iowa in 2012 as he did in 2008 without a huge campaign infrastructure.

“When I ran four years ago we had 52 members of our full-time staff. This time we had five. And you guys have done the work," he said.

Romney invested millions in Iowa for its last presidential primary, only to come in second to then-Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, losing by 9 points.

He got 25 percent of the vote in 2008 and looks to get the same number in 2012.

His campaign had been careful not to raise expectations in Iowa this cycle.

In his speech to supporters, given shortly after midnight, Romney deviated little from his standard stump speech, introducing his family, thanking the veterans in the room and attacking Obama.

His wife Ann introduced him and four of his five sons stood behind him onstage.

Romney ended his speech by looking ahead to New Hampshire, the next-voting state in the GOP primary process, where he is has a strong lead in the polls.

“On to New Hampshire, let’s get that job done,” he closed. “Come visit us there, we’ve got some work ahead.”