11:36 p.m. – Santorum 24.7%, Romney 24.6%, Paul 21.2%. 93.5% precincts in.
11:30 p.m. – Howard Fineman just made a brilliant point: A wounded Newt Gingrich is more dangerous than a winning Newt Gingrich.
11:28 p.m. – Newt Gingrich said Americans should act “worthy” of the men and women who serve in the United States’ armed services. Politicians are allowed to campaign and govern because of their sacrifice, Gingrich said.
11:24 p.m. – Newt Gingrich thanks his supporters for sticking with him after with him under barrage of negative attacks.
Newt also congratulated Rick Santorum for running a good, positive campaign. On positive, he says, “I wish I could say that for all the candidates,” — a jab at Mitt Romney and the attack ads against him.
11:24 p.m. – John Hinderaker does his best to encourage Ron Paul to pursue a third party run.
11:14 p.m. – Ron Paul says there’s “nothing to be ashamed of” and supporters should be “rearing and ready” to move on to New Hampshire. He says he does not doubt he’ll lose money, and certainly not afraid of losing enthusiasm of supporters.
11:07 p.m. – Ron Paul, on stage now: “We reintroduced some ideas that Republicans needed for a long time.”
11:06 p.m. – Romney back to narrow lead, 27,133 to 27,029 over Santorum, 89.63% reporting.
11:03 p.m. – Another great Tweet from Buddy Roemer:
@BuddyRoemer Okay. That’s it. I’m buying a sweater vest. #itworkedforsantorum
10:58 p.m. – Santorum 24.6%, Romney 24.6%, Paul 21.2% at 10:56 p.m. 88.1% precincts in.
10:53 p.m. – Though unconfirmed, the Daily Telegraph’s Toby Harndon tweets: “Was told earlier that only ‘one speech’ has been drafted for Romney tonight.”
10:50 p.m. – NBC News officially projecting Ron Paul will finish third. That has to be considered a disappointment for Paul.
10:49 p.m. – Romney 24.9%, Santorum 24.4%, Paul 21.2% at 10:46 p.m. 79% precincts in.
10:48 p.m. – The funniest candidate reaction of the night so far goes to former Louisiana Governor Buddy Roemer. Mr. Roemer is currently in last place with 9 (that’s votes, not percentage points), but, rolling with the punches, he tweeted:
I almost have enough votes in Iowa to start a bowling league. #Roementum
10:46 p.m. – “More people are tweeting this caucus than are voting in it. Literally.” – John Podheretz.
10:41 p.m. – BuzzFeed has an unconfirmed report of an instant message from someone on Rick Perry’s team which reads: “man, i didn’t say this…but our campaign really is a massive disaster.”
10:39 p.m. – Santorum 24.3%, Romney 23.7%, Paul 21.6% at 10:34 p.m. ET. 52% precincts in.
10:32 p.m. – It looks like Bachmann will get less than half of the votes in the Iowa Caucus (1,932 according to Fox right now) than she did in the Ames straw poll (4,823). H/t Jonah Goldberg.
10:31 p.m. – Rick Perry says he will “wait and see in the morning what it looks like.” Aides say they are still heading to SC tomorrow.
10:27 p.m. – Fox News reports that turnout for the Iowa caucuses is being estimated at about 120,000.
This appears to be nearly the same as the Republican caucuses in the 2008 cycle, which were at about 119,000 — and when there were also very busy caucuses on the Democratic side, compared to the uncontested Democratic caucuses this time around.
10:25 p.m. – Fox News is focusing largely on the lower-ranking candidates tonight. Panelist Bill Kristol turned up the heat on Perry, saying who results — which are still coming in — currently show in 5th place: “I just think his dignity I think will suggest to him that he get out.”
10:24 p.m. – There are now several more waves of entrance poll data in, as well as some actual voting results to help calibrate them. Based on this much-improved data, the entrance polls now estimate that Mr. Paul received 19 percent of the evangelical vote – well behind Rick Santorum’s 32 percent. Via Nate Silver.
10:22 p.m. – Santorum 24.3%, Romney 23.6%, Paul 21.8% at 10:18 p.m. ET. 49.5% precincts in.
10:16 p.m. – Best Tweet tonight:
@borowitzreport: Mitt Romney must be thrilled: he’s in a tie with a lawn gnome and a guy who opposes man-on-dog marriage.
10:13 p.m. – Photo (via Matt Lettelier) of the press room across from Romney HQ:
10:11 p.m. – How soon after last vote from tonight is counted do calls begin anew for Jeb Bush to enter 2012 race?
10:09 p.m. – Turnout is poor, and the winner is still highly uncertain. In general, that seems like bad news for the GOP. The enthusiasm just isn’t there, is it, except for Paul among the young. And the field is deeply split. Via Andrew Sullivan.
10:08 p.m. – Santorum 24.1%, Romney 23.9%, Paul 21.9% at 10:03 p.m. 45.5% precincts in.
10:05 p.m. – On Fox News, Palin says Rick Santorum’s strong showing in Iowa is unsurprising given his social conservative credentials in evangelical-heavy Iowa: “I’m not surprised at his success tonight. You know he is a social conservative, it’s what he’s known for.”
10:02 p.m. – Chuck Todd says NBC may not be able to “call” this race, will have to actually wait for all ballots to be counted.
9:55 p.m. – As results to caucus entrance polls trickle in, projections are that Michele Bachmann is coming in last. Ed Rollins, formerly of Bachmann’s campaign, says Bachmann should drop out, and that her top advisors will be having that discussion with her tonight.
9:52 p.m. – Krauthammer is spinning for Romney and Santorum, and notes Paul’s collapse among the final deciders. But he’s right about Perry: a disaster, given the enormous amount of money Perry spent in the state.
9:50 p.m. – Newt Gingrich will run this ad in tomorrow’s New Hampshire Union Leader, reports Politico:
9:47 p.m. – Tonight’s results…great news for Jon Huntsman?
9:42 p.m. – Photo of ballots being counted via correspondent Matt Lettelier:
9:37 p.m. – The closest caucus historically came in 1996, when Bob Dole finished with 26 percent of the vote, Pat Buchanan 23 percent, and Lamar Alexander with 18 percent. The 8-point gap separating Mr. Dole and Mr. Alexander may wind up being much larger than the margin separating the top three candidates tonight. Via Nate Silver.
9:33 p.m. – With 24% reporting, fewer than 50 votes separate Santorum, Romney and Paul.
9:28 p.m. – Paul 23.9%, Santorum 23.6%, Romney 22.3%. 21.9% precincts in.
9:24 p.m. – Some interesting factoids from the entrance polls: Paul beats Santorum among those without a college education; Paul easily wins the under-30s and the lower income brackets. Alana Goodman:
Thirty-two percent of voters say that being able to beat President Obama is the “most important” quality in a candidate. Out of that group, 48 percent are backing Romney, 10 percent Santorum, and 7 percent Paul.
9:22 p.m. – Paul 24.0%, Santorum 23.2%, Romney 22.6%. 18.2% precincts in.
9:16 p.m. – Bettors at Intrade like what they are seeing for Ron Paul. He is now given a 50 percent chance of winning tonight.
9:12 p.m. – The independents have flooded in, doubling their impact over 2008, thanks to Ron Paul. Silver:
Almost 30 percent of voters identify as either independent or Democratic, much higher than in 2008 and toward the high range of the estimates that pollsters made in their likely voter models. The entrance polls report that about half of those voters are breaking for Ron Paul. Likewise, the percentage of moderates according to the the exit polls is about 20 percent – twice as high as in 2008 – and those voters so far are breaking for Mr. Paul as well.
9:09 p.m. – 10.7% reporting: Paul 24.2%, Santorum 23.0%, Romney 22.9%.
9:05 p.m. – @chucktodd: Can definitively report the entrance polls overstated Paul’s strength.
8:59 p.m. – Here’s a terrific map which helps you judge the actual caucus precinct based on its demographics. It too is showing a strong Paul presence. Via Andrew Sullivan.
8:58 p.m. – Ron Paul’s tweet at Jon Huntsman has already been deleted. But the Washington Post) screen-grabbed it.
8:55 p.m. – BuzzFeed reports that Santorum’s political director Michael Biund described the optimism with a comparison to a children’s book:
“Two weeks ago you were saying we’d be coming in dead last,” he said. “This is the little engine that could campaign. Whatever happens here tonight we’re going to be coming out of here with more momentum than we had two weeks ago. We feel very well positioned to keep going. No matter what you guys say we’re going to keep plugging along.”
8:50 p.m. – Wow, what a dick!
@RonPaul: @jonhuntsman we found your one Iowa voter, he’s in Linn precinct 5 you might want to call him and say thanks.
8:47 p.m. – New batch of entrance polls puts it at Paul, 23.5%; Romney 23.5%; Santorum, 19.5%.
8:46 p.m. – 2.8% of caucus results in: Santorum 26.2%, Paul 22.9%, Romney 18%.
8:41 p.m. – First results in RT @DylanByers: Paul 42.9%, Perry 19.0%, Romney 14.3% via AP at 8:33 p.m. ET. 0.1% precincts in.
8:39 p.m. – Nearly 2/3 of caucus goers support the Tea Party, according to early polls.
8:31 p.m. – Speaking via videoconference to Iowa Democratic caucus-goers, President Obama reaffirmed his commitment to a fight in his reelection campaign.
“It’s going to be a big battle,” Obama said of 2012. “I hope you’re geared up. I’m excited.”
8:27 p.m. – On Fox News, analysts Karl Rove and his colleague are looking at Dubuque and Polk County, which includes Des Moines and it’s environs. In Dubuque, the population is heavily Catholic, so if Santorum stalls there he won’t make the top slot. In Polk County, Rove predicts, will be a bellwether for Romney; if he doesn’t get 25%-30% there, then he’ll be in trouble.
8:23 p.m. – Josh Marshall is reading the tea leaves:
We’re reading the (fairly unreliable) entrance poll tea leaves. Listening to the conversation on CNN, they just noted that 37% of the caucus-goers made their decision in the last “few days.” 12% made up their mind today. Taking the total of 37%, that’s 7% more than in 2008 when Mike Huckabee came out of nowhere and won.
In a climate of Santorumentum, that’s got to be good news for Rick Santorum.
The real tell is going to be how much support gets mopped up by Bachmann, Perry, et al.
8:15 p.m. – CNN entrance polls show Ron Paul, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum in the top tier of candidates. No surprises.
Based on caucus goers who arrived early, Paul and Romney lead with 24%, followed by Santorum at 18%.
8:13 p.m. – Ezra Klein is watching more than the vote count:
[N]either the media nor party elites respond to Iowa in an easily predictable fashion. There’s no simple convergence around the winner. Sometimes, as with Sen. Tom Harkin’s 1992 win in Iowa, no one cares about Iowa whatsoever. In that case, the win didn’t count as Harkin was from Iowa. Sometimes, a win in Iowa counts as an impressive victory, but not one with obviously national implications — that’s essentially how Mike Huckabee’s 2008 win was greeted. Sometimes, a win in Iowa vaults a candidate directly to frontrunner status, as happened to then-Sen. Barack Obama in 2008. Sometimes, it persuades the party to coalesce against a threat, as happened with Pat Robertson’s second-place finish in 1988.
8:07 p.m. – Rick Santorum pushed back on conventional wisdom that he will not be the nominee despite a strong showing in Iowa, telling ABC News: “This is the first step, this is the first step…A win here is a start, but it’s a start. It’s not the culmination, it’s a start. It’s not the culmination, it’s the beginning.”
8:06 p.m. – CNN entrance poll has Romney in 3rd place or worse among all income groups except $100K+.
8:03 p.m. – Iowa GOP caucus entrance poll available here.
8:01 p.m. – Based on early entrance polls, @ABC projects a three-man race for first in Iowa. Romney, Santorum, and Paul in the mix.
7:52 p.m. – Making his final appeal to Iowa caucus-goers, Newt Gingrich spoke this evening about his experience being the key reason why he would be the best one to take on President Obama. “This is not a time for another amateur,” Gingrich said.
7:50 p.m. – As part of her last speech to the Iowa Caucus, Michele Bachmann returned to her evangelical-courting ways:
“We are surrounded by a cloud of witnesses of generations who have gone on before. Going back to the time of William Penn who came to this country to bring the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ, to the time of the pilgrims who came here also to share the gospel of Jesus Christ, who stated that they willingly laid down their lives, literally as stepping stones, so that the next generation would prosper and know religious liberty.
7:46 p.m. – Rick Santorum just showed up at a Polk County caucus, according to SaintPetersBlog correspondent Matt Lettelier:
7:18 p.m. – Ron Paul is a top contender to win the Iowa caucus on Tuesday night, but he is also ahead in the Drudge Report caucus.
7:07 p.m. – Six Twitter cliches from caucus reporting.
7:04 p.m. – Check out this screenshot of the homepage of the Des Moines Register this evening, when the newspaper accidentally put up a draft headline of the caucus results, reading, “Iowa Politics Insider: XXXXX wins!”
7:03 p.m. – Erick Erickson just Tweeted:
@EWErickson: I will not be surprised if Rick Santorum comes in first in Iowa.
7:02 p.m. – The Iowa hype finally went through the roof today… and TPM’s Michael Lester boiled down all the breathless chatter into a sizzling 100 seconds.
7:00 p.m. – Matt Taibbi says the 2012 presidential race has lost its “elemental appeal” and “may be the most meaningless national election campaign we’ve ever had.” … “In the wake of the Tea Party, the Occupy movement, and a dozen or more episodes of real rebellion on the streets, in the legislatures of cities and towns, and in state and federal courthouses, this presidential race now feels like a banal bureaucratic sideshow to the real event — the real event being a looming confrontation between huge masses of disaffected citizens on both sides of the aisle, and a corrupt and increasingly ideologically bankrupt political establishment, represented in large part by the two parties dominating this race.”
6:58 p.m. – First Read: “As always in politics, the race probably hinges on turnout. If it’s similar to four years ago — about 120,000 participants, 60% of whom are self-described evangelicals, and a combined 78% thinking that values and saying what you believe are the most important qualities — then Santorum has a VERY good chance of winning. Under those circumstances, he becomes a mini-Huckabee. On the other hand, a much higher turnout — so a smaller percentage of evangelicals and more thinking that electability and experience are the most important things — would be VERY good news for Romney. A caveat on tonight’s entrance polls, though: ENTRANCE polls are less predictive than EXIT polls, so be cautious when the first wave comes out. Romney, in fact, led the first wave four years ago.”
6:58 p.m. – John Heilemann: “If turnout is high, the advantage is probably to Romney, because it means a higher proportion of mainstream Republicans and a lower percentage of hard-core conservative activists. If turnout is low, the advantage is to Santorum, for the same reason in reverse.”
6:57 p.m. – This video, “Iowa Nice,” reminds us that Iowans are cordial — but they swear a lot too, and went Democratic in five out of the last six presidential elections. Why is it near the top of YouTube’s politics page today? Oh, right. Reddit.
6:56 p.m. – Will Twitter be a better predictor of election success than exit polls? The Washington Post on Tuesday launched a tracker that shows Twitter mentions and media mentions for each candidate. Mashable quotes WaPo’s Cory Haik as saying that it could be “an early indicator” of caucus success. We’ve seen Twitter mention counters earlier this campaign season, and if the social-media-dominant Ron Paul campaign puts the Texas congressman over Romney, it would be easier to attribute to a well-organized ground game — in which tools like Facebook naturally play a role, but are one component.
6:55 p.m. – What will social media mean for the Iowa caucus when half of Iowans are not on Facebook? Jen Preston reports:
Digital strategists for the candidates said they were mindful that online efforts alone would not be enough to mobilize the foot soldiers they need to get out the vote and win. Mr. Gingrich’s hundreds of thousands of Facebook fans and Twitter followers were not enough to get him the 10,000 signatures he needed to get on the ballot in Virginia.
Also, half of Iowans are not on Facebook, so candidates have been bombarding them with mailers, traditional television advertising and automated phone calls from candidates.