Barack Obama finished his 2012 campaign in Iowa, the state that helped launch his 2008 presidential bid by giving him a primary win over Hillary Rodham Clinton. And on Tuesday night, Iowa once again helped put Obama over the top.
The president zeroed in on supporters in urban areas where he did well in 2008. Democrats usually need to run up big majorities of at least 30,000 or so in Polk County, which includes Des Moines, in order to offset Republican majorities in more rural, conservative parts of the state. And Obama did that.
While the sluggish economy posed an obstacle for Obama in other states, the unemployment rate in Iowa is running at just 5.5 percent.
Obama was hoping for a boost from early voters. The Iowa secretary of state said that 673,124 Iowans had cast their ballots by the close of business Monday, shattering the 2008 record of 545,739 by about 25 percent. Early voters tend to favor Democrats, and Democratic organizers pressed people to take advantage of the 40 days they had to cast early ballots. Those early votes will likely make up about 45 percent of the Iowa electorate.
The Obama campaign operation was formidable. One veteran Democratic organizer said that the well-funded apparatus was five times as big as the get-out-the-vote organizations in the state during the 1990s and bigger than the GOP operation. And it relied on data mining to find likely Democratic voters.
Republicans hoped for a Romney victory in a state that frequently favors GOP candidates for other posts. GOP strategists pointed at the Iowa secretary of state's voter-registration figures, which showed that active registered Republicans slightly outnumbered active registered Democrats; Democrats held a substantial edge in 2008. But the change probably reflected the fact that there was a contested Republican primary this year while Obama ran unopposed. Registered voters who were not affiliated at all outnumbered those registered with either of the major parties.
"And after all we've been through together, after all we've fought through together, we cannot give up on change now," Obama said at a rally Monday. Iowa voters agreed.