DES MOINES — Democrat President Barack Obama won the battleground state of Iowa Tuesday, a hard-fought victory in the state he credits with launching his presidency four years ago.
Obama and Republican Mitt Romney traveled frequently to Iowa and spent millions of dollars on advertising to win Iowa's six electoral votes.
Voters also returned two incumbent Democrats and a Republican to Congress, handing victories to Democrat Reps. Bruce Braley and Dave Loebsack, and Republican Rep. Steve King.
In the 3rd Congressional District, eight-term Democratic incumbent Leonard Boswell was voted out of a job. He was beat by nine-term incumbent Republican Rep. Tom Latham, who moved into the Des Moines-centered district after Iowa lost a seat due to once-a-decade redistricting.
Voters were also asked Tuesday to determine whether a state Supreme Court judge stays on the bench and whether Republicans gain control of the state Legislature.
While most polling places saw no issues, large numbers of voters who registered at the polls created long lines in one county and caused a few others to run out of ballots. College students in Cedar Falls and Ames registering to vote for the first time slowed the process, creating a line of several hundred voters in a Cedar Falls precinct.
Up to 45 percent of Iowa voters cast their ballots early. Officials said more than 673,000 residents voted by the end of the day Monday — a nearly 25 percent increase over the 2008 record of just over 545,000.
On Tuesday, an unexpected number of voters registering at the polls in two Madison County precincts caused a ballot shortage. Workers made photocopies to accommodate all voters.
Ida County elections workers struggled to keep up with roughly 1,100 absentee ballots, a sizeable figure in a county of about 7,000 people.
"It's been huge for us," said Auditor Lorna Steenbock.
More than half of Iowa voters said the economy is the top issue facing the country, according to preliminary results from exit polling for The Associated Press. 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.
Chris Barker, 25, a coffee shop manager from Des Moines said he supported Obama in 2008 and had no reason to switch to Romney.
"The only thing that he actually believes in is he's good enough to be president," Barker said of Romney. "Other than that there's not actually a core thing that Mitt Romney believes in, except that he needs to win, no matter what he has to say or do."
Des Moines real estate appraiser Brett Blanchfield, 37, said he voted for Mitt Romney largely because he thought the Republican will boost the economy.
"My company is based on economic productivity," Blanchfield said. "I've seen a massive slowdown."
In Williamsburg, an eastern Iowa town of about 3,100, Sarah Giles, 89, got emotional as she explained why she picked Romney.
"When he says he's going to make America wonderful again, he's speaking my lingo. My love for this country goes deeper than anything," she said, recalling that her brother died at Iwo Jima during World War II.
Justin Green, 26, of Des Moines, voted for Obama for a second time because of his support for investment in science and education.
"There were things I was unhappy with," said Green, a law student at Drake University. "But when it all comes down to it there were a whole lot of other things I was still proud of him working on and at least attempting to reach across the aisle on at the beginning of his term."
In the congressional races, King won a sixth term, his toughest challenge yet, beating Iowa's former first lady Christie Vilsack, a Democrat.
Braley won a fourth term, beating Republican Ben Lange in Iowa's 1st Congressional District. It was the second time Braley has beat Lange, who narrowly lost his congressional bid in 2010.
Loebsack was elected to a fourth term representing southeastern Iowa's 2nd Congressional District, beating Republican Bettendorf lawyer John Archer.
Iowa voters also were tasked with deciding whether to retain an Iowa Supreme Court justice who supported gay marriage.
Sylvia Fanelli, 34, of West Des Moines, said Obama's support of gay marriage was a big reason she chose the Democrat. She also voted to retain Justice David Wiggins, who joined in the unanimous 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage.
"I think that man is an awesome judge," Fanelli said. "I think he's doing the right thing and he did the right thing voting for marriage equality in this country."
In the Legislature, Republicans hoped to win a majority in the state Senate, which would let them move ahead with an ambitious agenda backed by GOP Gov. Terry Branstad.