Rick Santorum’s New Favorite Number Is 34 [Updated]

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We're No. 1-ish! Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Thirty-four is the number of votes by which new reports say Rick Santorum outstripped Mitt Romney in Iowa. Previous counts had Romney up by eight.

Of course, that margin is so small that it very nearly doesn't matter — and officially, it doesn't. The GOP is technically calling the caucus a "split decision." "The comments I made at 1:30 a.m. Jan. 4 congratulating both Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum still apply," said the state's GOP Chairman Matt Strawn. "I don’t think the certified vote totals take anything away from either Governor Romney or Senator Santorum." Everybody wins and they should feel so good about themselves! (Yet another way this primary is not dissimilar to preschool.)

That's because even this 34 count advantage for Santorum doesn't reflect the whole picture, explains the Des Moines County Register:

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.

"Our staff played the role of Columbo," our new favorite political operative Strawn explained to the paper, dismissing both the idea that Iowa had run the thing sloppily, and that cultural references ought to resonate with people born after 1980.

But Iowans don't really care about those 34 votes.  South Carolineans seeking an alternative to Mitt Romney just might — or at least Rick Santorum is hoping they might — care about it. Probably, though, everything is going to proceed as it would have before, except now Rick Santorum is going to change his ATM password to 3434 and start telling people he's turning 34 for the twentieth time and rooting for all the bench players who wear the jersey number 34.

Update: Despite what the GOP said about this being a "tie," and clearly not a dispositive margin of error given the irregularities in the vote count,  Santorum's declaring victory, and Romney may or may not have called him to concede. OK then.