DES MOINES — President Barack Obama carried Iowa on Tuesday as voters said the economy isn't good, isn't necessarily getting better, but isn't Obama's fault, according to preliminary results from exit polling for The Associated Press.
More than half of Iowa voters said the economy is the top issue facing the country. And the U.S. economy is "not so good" or "poor," Iowa voters said, by a two-to-one ratio. And here's one key to Obama's win on Tuesday: A little more than half of voters blamed former President George W. Bush for the current state of the economy, with only about one-third blaming Obama.
"He's trying to get people back to work," said Jay Doehrmann, 46, who lives in Williamsburg in eastern Iowa and stocks shelves at a grocery store. "It's a long process and it can't happen overnight."
The deficit was the top issue for almost one-fifth of voters, the second-biggest group. Their other choices were foreign policy and health care.
Hannah Risinger, a 19-year-old student at Drake University in Des Moines, said economic issues were key to her decision to vote for Republican Mitt Romney. Her older brother graduated three years ago with a degree in chemical engineering, but he's working as a waiter. "That's upsetting to me," she said.
Iowa was watched closely. With only six electoral votes, it's no Ohio or Pennsylvania on the electoral college map. But Romney's strategy hinged on preventing Obama from sweeping Iowa along with Ohio and Wisconsin. That didn't happen — Obama swept all three.
Both candidates and their running mates spent a lot of time in Iowa. At one point over the summer, Obama was in Iowa for three days in a row. Romney and Obama held competing rallies in Dubuque on Saturday, and Romney was in Des Moines on Sunday.
Obama closed out his 2012 campaign with a rally in Des Moines on Monday night. It was a return to where his political surge began in 2008 when his campaign was energized by his surprise Iowa caucus win over Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Since then, the U.S. has been through a recession and a disappointing recovery. Things are better in Iowa, where the unemployment rate was 5.2 percent in September, below the national average at that time of 7.8 percent. But the economy is sluggish there like in most other places.
Commercial real estate appraiser Brett Blanchfield, 37, of Des Moines, voted for Romney because of his view on taxes.
"My company is based on economic productivity," he said. "I've seen a massive slowdown."
Romney's tax plan — he and Obama differ on whether to raise federal income taxes in higher brackets — is exactly what worries 60-year-old Lorene Dykstra, a teacher and former high school principal in Ventura in north-central Iowa.
"I think Romney is in it for wealthier people," she said. If he wins, "I think our tax structure is going to get turned upside down."
About half of voters said taxes should rise for those making $250,000 or more per year — something Obama has favored. About one-third agreed with Romney that taxes shouldn't go up for anybody.
Obama withstood a dropoff in support from men. It helped that he expanded his 2008 lead among women. Republicans were hammered this year by statements made by candidates in other states about rape and abortion.
The survey of 3,580 Iowa voters was conducted for AP and the television networks by Edison Research. This includes preliminary results from interviews conducted as voters left a random sample of 45 precincts statewide Tuesday, as well as 502 who voted early or absentee and were interviewed by landline or cellular telephone from Oct. 26 through Nov. 3. Results for the full sample were subject to sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; it is higher for subgroups.