Iowans saw the nation's economy as the top issue as they voted in Tuesday's elections, and it's clear that they think it ought to be better than it is right now, 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 deficit was the top issue for almost one-fifth of voters, the second-biggest group. Their other choices were foreign policy and health care.
By a two-to-one ratio, Iowa voters said the condition of the nation's economy is "not so good" or "poor."
Voters cast their ballots on Election Day at Waterloo City Hall Tuesday in Waterloo.
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.
Obama deserves credit for the death of Osama bin Laden, said Jay Doehrmann, 46, who lives in Williamsburg in eastern Iowa and stocks shelves at a grocery store.
"He's trying to get people back to work," he said. "It's a long process and it can't happen overnight."
Iowa is being 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 President Barack Obama from sweeping Iowa along with Ohio and Wisconsin.
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."
The survey of 2,552 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.