GOP Presidential Race: Perry's Status, Iowa Results

There are reports Thursday that Texas Gov. Rick Perry will leave the GOP presidential race, and Iowa officials announced final results of the state's Republican presidential nominating caucuses held earlier this month.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION from NPR News. Good morning, I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. Lots of news this morning on the Republican presidential race. Texas Governor Ricky Perry is ending his bid for the nomination. His announcement is expected moments from now. And two weeks after the Iowa caucuses, there are new results. The Republican Party is officially calling the race a tie between Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney, rather than a narrow victory for Romney.

First, let's get to the news of Rick Perry and the word that he is dropping out of the race. He's in South Carolina, where Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum continue to campaign ahead of the state's primary election on Saturday. And NPR national political correspondent Don Gonyea is also in South Carolina. He's in Greenville. Good morning.

DON GONYEA, BYLINE: Just another sleepy day on the campaign trail.

MONTAGNE: On the campaign trail. Well, the announcement was scheduled for this hour, so it should be coming up any time. But tell us what you know about Rick Perry dropping out.

GONYEA: Well, this announcement comes amid much chaos and much confusion within the campaign itself. Last night, some of his top aides didn't know it was coming. But we have been hearing rumblings for about the past 24 hours or so, that it made no sense for Rick Perry to continue on, be embarrassed by the vote on Saturday in South Carolina, which would very likely have happened, given the polls. He just was not getting any traction.

So the news broke early this morning that he decided to pull the plug. We're waiting for him to come out as we speak. But I think the feeling is that by getting out now he can make an endorsement that might mean something, and he gets a little attention, he gets a little juice. He's got a packed house, something he hasn't had at all during this campaign down here.

MONTAGNE: And that endorsement might go to who?

GONYEA: Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich. Again, Perry wasn't polling much, so it's not like he's got a lot of supporters to give to Gingrich. Still, it shows that he's determined to help someone stop Mitt Romney, and Gingrich does have momentum here. He's been gaining in the polls, gaining on Romney, still behind. And this just kind of adds to that sense that things are going well for the former U.S. House speaker.

MONTAGNE: Let's turn to those Iowa caucuses. What exactly happened to bring about this change in the results?

GONYEA: Yes. Recall that early in the morning on January 4 – that was, you know, many hours after the January 3 caucuses – Mitt Romney won by eight votes. He was declared the winner, but under the caucus process it takes two weeks to officially certify the votes. Because it was so close – they didn't do a recount but they did what they call kind of a re-canvassing of all the precincts. The problem is, these are paper ballots put into shoe boxes and, you know, little containers like that in these 1,774 different caucus sites.

So they didn't have all of the votes from all of the precincts, but as best they could tell, Rick Santorum, who finished second, is up by 34 votes. The Iowa Republican Party is essentially declaring it a tie. Rick Santorum is of course declaring it a victory - a landslide victory, I might say.

MONTAGNE: Although given – they can all say what they want – but effectively does this really make a difference?

GONYEA: It just feels like it's lost in the shuffle of all the other breaking news here in South Carolina, with Mitt Romney's taxes and Perry dropping out, and Gingrich's rise. Santorum would have loved to have had this announcement a couple of weeks ago. It doesn't really feel like it's going to give him a lot of juice a couple of weeks later now.

MONTAGNE: Don, thank you very much, and Rick Perry has now stepped out before cameras down there in South Carolina, and of course NPR News will be covering the events of the morning and his actual announcement and his endorsement when that final, final moment comes, which is just - we're sort of in the middle of it but not quite to the end of it. Thanks very much. Don Gonyea in Greenville, South Carolina. This is NPR News.

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