Des Moines, IA (AP) - Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney waged a seesaw battle for supremacy in Iowa's Republican presidential caucuses late Tuesday night, a dramatic opening round for the campaign to pick a challenger to President Barack Obama.
Texas Rep. Ron Paul ran third.
Returns from 98 percent of the state's precincts showed Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, and Romney, a former governor of Massachusetts, in a near dead heat, a fitting conclusion to a race as jumbled as any since Iowa gained the lead-off position in presidential campaigns four decades ago.
Regardless of the outcome, there was room for both to claim victory - Romney as the man to beat for the party's nomination and Santorum as the leader among those struggling to emerge as the former governor's unvarnished conservative rival in the primaries yet to come.
"Game on," Santorum said, jaw clenched, in a late-night appearance before supporters in the Iowa capital city.