Santorum cites Iowa tally in calls for support

Buoyed by news he had edged rival Mitt Romney in Iowa's Republican caucuses, Rick Santorum said Thursday he remained conservatives' best option and urged them to resist calls to rally behind Newt Gingrich.

Santorum bested Romney by 34 votes in the final tally of Iowa's caucuses, Republican officials said Thursday. But no winner was declared because some votes remain uncertified two weeks after the event's closest contest ever. The state GOP initially declared Romney the victor -- by just eight votes.

Romney called the Iowa results a "virtual tie."

Santorum also urged conservatives to imagine what a head-to-head contest with President Barack Obama will hold. He said both Gingrich and Romney had shared Obama's views on the Wall Street bailout and health care mandates in the past, muting potential criticism of the incumbent president.

"How can you differentiate ourselves on the major issues of the day if we nominate Tweedledum and Tweedledee," Santorum told conservatives later in Charleston, "instead of someone who stood up and said, 'No' "?

Harrell backs Gingrich after Perry bows out

S.C. House Speaker Bobby Harrell, R-Charleston, endorsed Newt Gingrich on Thursday, hours after his first choice, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, called it quits.

"Cathy and I make these decisions together," Harrell said, referencing his wife. "We believe Newt Gingrich is the right choice for South Carolina, and for the United States. His commitment to the conservative principles of lower taxes, smaller government, and economic development are key to restoring America to greatness."

Gingrich paid $994,708 in federal taxes in 2010

WASHINGTON -- Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich paid $994,708 in federal taxes in 2010 on more than $3.1 million in income.

Tax returns released Thursday evening show the former House speaker owed roughly 31.6 percent of his adjusted income in taxes, giving about 2 percent to charity. Gingrich took aim at rival and multimillionaire Mitt Romney this week for paying only 15 percent.

Bachmann declares Gingrich not acceptable

Former Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann was not on board with Newt Gingrich, issuing a statement aimed at South Carolina voters.

"One candidate could not be less acceptable to be our party's nominee," she said. "He lacks the poise, experience and moral fiber to represent our principles and values. That candidate is Newt Gingrich."

Bachmann said she isn't ready to endorse a candidate but plans to do so in the coming weeks.

Democratic chief calls GOP field extremist

The Republican presidential field has embraced extremism and would take the country back to the same failed tax and health policies, a leading Democrat said Thursday.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a Florida congresswoman, was in Charleston to offer her party's take on the South Carolina GOP primary.

She was particularly harsh on Mitt Romney. Asked what she expected to hear in Thursday night's debate, she said, "I expect that Mitt Romney will continue to try to hide the fact that he has a tax return that shows he pays a lower tax rate than most working families do."

President Barack Obama has fought hard to right the economy, Wasserman Schultz said. "We're making slow but steady progress. We need to pick up the pace of progress."