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Iowa GOP switches stance, declares Santorum winner

New certified totals from the Iowa Caucuses reveal that Rick Santorum finished ahead of Mitt Romney by 34 votes. Iowa GOP Party Chairman Matt Strawn discusses.

Updated at 2:55 p.m. ET

Iowa GOP Chairman Matt Strawn says Rick Santorum is the winner of the Iowa Caucus. Period.

After the Republican Party of Iowa released the final certified results Thursday morning with eight missing precincts, Strawn released a statement saying he wanted to congratulate both "Senator Santorum and Governor Romney on a hard-fought effort during the closest contest in caucus history.” The press release specifically did not state a specific winner of the Jan 3. Caucus, rather implying it was a tie.

But this afternoon, Strawn went on WHO Radio in Iowa and announced there should be no “ambiguity,” that Santorum is, in fact, the winner.

"Certified results show Rick Santorum leading or won by 34 votes,” Strawn told Jan Mickelson, noting that he needed to apologize to Santorum for any misunderstanding.

On MSNBC's "Andrea Mitchell Reports," Strawn said, "In the wee hours of Jan. 4 ... I explained we had a two-week certification process."

Thursday afternoon, NBC News reported that Santorum aides say received a phone call from Mitt Romney offering congratulations for the new result in the Iowa caucuses.

The switch of views comes just hours after a prominent Iowa Republican, Craig Robinson, called for Strawn’s removal as chairman.

“Matt Strawn should be removed as RPI Chairman for refusing to declare Santorum the winner. The votes are either certified or they are not,” tweeted Robinson, who was the state party's political director last cycle.

It is unclear whether Strawn felt pressure from other prominent leaders in Iowa to make the switch, but the chairman was very assertive on the radio program -- even further acknowledging that if the missing precincts were able to be counted, if the results they currently have for them stuck, Santorum would be the winner either way.

But it is common knowledge in the Hawkeye State that Strawn has hopes of running for higher office in the state and obviously would not want complications over caucus results surrounding any run.

Many, though, wonder if the caucus process as a whole can continue in this fashion -- a process of hand-writing names on pieces of paper like a straw poll.

"One of the strengths of the Iowa caucus process is that the state was a level, fair playing field. Candidates could come to the state and get an honest airing. There aren't political machines or a history of fraud. The inaccurate counting tarnishes that reputation,” longtime Des Moines Register reporter David Yepsen told NBC News Thursday.

There has not been any official press release from the Republican Party of Iowa naming Santorum the winner, but the Santorum campaign and Strawn have.

NBC's Kelly O'Donnell contributed to this report.