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Tea Party poster girl Michele Bachmann quits White House race after humbling in Iowa

By David Usborne

Michele Bachmann has quit the Republican US Presidential campaign, saying she "decided to stand aside" in the wake of her sixth place finish in the Iowa caucuses.

Mrs Bachmann, a favourite with the ultra-conservative Tea Party Movement, said she had "no regrets" and said she ran her race with integrity and will continue to fight for the causes she emphasised on the campaign trail.

She referred repeatedly to "Obamacare" and said the Republican Party must not miss a "once-in-a-lifetime opportunity" to repeal both the sweeping health care law brought in by Barack Obama and the financial regulation law known as Dodd-Frank.

It has been a long, deep slide for the Minnesota Congresswoman, who enjoyed a high point in her campaign when she won a Republican straw poll in Ames, Iowa, several months ago. Her announcement that she was dropping her bid was no surprise after she took just 5% of the votes, a shocking collapse of support since winning the state's vaunted straw poll last August.

"Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a clear voice and I have decided to stand aside," she said.

Rick Santorum cast doubt on Mitt Romney's chances of quickly sewing up the Republican nomination after coming from the back of the field to tie the Iowa caucus vote, raising the prospect of a long and painful race.

After a long night that was full of suspense but short on clarity, party officials confirmed the split decision by Iowa Republicans. While Mr Romney had won Tuesday's caucuses, it was by a mere eight-point margin; he took 30,015 votes compared to 30,007 for the conservative Mr Santorum - 24.55% versus 24.54%.

Wasting no time both men, as well as libertarian Ron Paul and former House speaker Newt Gingrich, who finished third and fourth in Iowa respectively, flew to New Hampshire which will hold the first fully-fledged Republican primary vote next Tuesday, setting in motion a string of state-by-state contests.

There was muddle, meanwhile, over the intentions of Rick Perry, the Governor of Texas, who came in a poor fifth and told supporters he was going home to Austin to "assess" whether his campaign remained viable. Yet yesterday he indicated via Twitter that he intended to carry on.

Factfile

A caucus is a private event run by political parties which is used for elections in 11 US states. Unlike during a primary election, party members meet to discuss the candidates before holding a vote to select delegates to county conventions. It is the first stage towards selecting a candidate. A primary is run by local government and involves party members, registered voters or the whole electorate directly selecting a candidate.

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