President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha arrive at the election night party Wednesday night in Chicago. Obama defeated Republican challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama carried Iowa with 52 percent of the vote while Romney won in Carroll County. <span style="font-size: xx-small;"><em>(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)</em></span>
President Barack Obama, accompanied by first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha arrive at the election night party Wednesday night in Chicago. Obama defeated Republican challenger and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Obama carried Iowa with 52 percent of the vote while Romney won in Carroll County. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
Wednesday, November 7, 2012

President Barack Obama, facing a struggling national economy and a blizzard of political challenges, including some to the simple legitimacy of his right to hold the office, carried key battleground states and stretched his re-election Tuesday beyond even some of the rosiest predictions for a big Obama night.

Iowa, where the president held 21 campaign events this year, factored into what as of press time was a 303-206 electoral-vote margin, placing Obama well past the 270 threshold. Obama carried Iowa with 52 percent of the vote to 46 percent for GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, according to unofficial results from the Iowa Secretary of State’s Office.

“Tonight in this election, you, the American people, reminded us that while our road has been hard, while our journey has been long, we have picked ourselves up, we have fought our way back,” Obama said in a victory speech in Chicago. “We know in our hearts that for the United States of America, the best is yet to come.”

Carroll County burnished its reputation as a swing county in a swing state, going for Romney 53 percent to 46 percent. Carroll County voted for Obama in 2008, having thrown its support behind President George W. Bush in 2004 and 2000. Bill Clinton won Carroll County in both 1996 and 1992, and Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis carried Carroll County in 1988.

In this cycle, 71 percent of the county’s 15,158 voters cast ballots in the election.

“It was definitely the most absentee ballots we’ve ever had. I think it was a very strong turnout,” County Auditor Joan Schettler said.

The county turned out 70 percent of its voters in 2008, which Schettler said had been a modern-day record.

Carroll County polling sites on Tuesday were underwhelmed by voters, who chose in record numbers this year to cast their ballots before Election Day.

Nearly 39 percent of the county’s 10,700 ballots tallied that day were submitted by mail or in-person at the county courthouse in the prior 40 days, according to unofficial election results. About 31 percent of the 2008 ballots were cast early.

Schettler reported heavy same-day registration as well. She was compiling final figures on that this morning.

Poll workers said a slow, steady stream of voters came and went throughout the day.

In Glidden, a broad man with a name tag that said “Big Daddy” ate fruit for lunch as voters trickled in and out over the noon hour.

“It’s just been real steady,” said Terry Augustus, who was a poll worker for his third straight General Election.

Augustus and the other workers dined on chicken pot pie and biscuits, wild rice soup and coconut cream pie from morning to night at the city’s downtown municipal building.

“If we’re going to spend 16 hours here, we’re going to get something out of it,” Augustus joked.

At the Carroll County Courthouse, there were plenty of free hands to help cast ballots.

“Lay it flat and push it forward,” veteran poll worker Sheryl Wegner instructed a woman in a wheelchair in the courthouse’s meeting room. “Thank you for voting. You’re number 244.”

Wegner, who has volunteered to work the polls for the past 20 years, said this General Election was among the calmest she can remember.

“We’re all happy campers,” she said of her fellow volunteers. “It’s been an easy time because of the early voting.”

Carroll County voters strongly backed the re-election campaign of U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Kiron, in his race with Ames Democrat Christie Vilsack. King carried Carroll County with 55 percent of the vote.

Carroll County rejected native daughter Mary Bruner 53 percent to 47 percent in the Democrat’s contest with Republican Crawford County Supervisor Mark Segebart. Segebart carried all five counties in the new Iowa Senate District 6 on his way to victory.

State Rep. Dan Muhlbauer, D- Manilla, cruised to re-election in House District 12 over Carroll Republican Barney Bornhoft. Muhlbauer captured 62 percent of the vote in Carroll County.

In a high-profile judicial-retention decision Carroll County bucked the statewide total and voted to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins who supported a 2009 decision that enshrined same-sex marriage as a civil right in the Hawkeye State.

Locally, Greene County emerged as a tight contest in the presidential race with Romney leading Obama by just four votes, 2,373 to 2,369, according to unofficial figures from the Secretary of State’s Office. Otherwise, Romney carried the surrounding area with strong margins — Audubon County (52 percent), Calhoun County (55 percent), Crawford County (53 percent), Guthrie County (54 percent) and Sac County (58 percent).

In the City of Carroll, Romney carried Wards 1, 2 and 3, while Obama captured Ward 4. King also won Carroll Wards 1, 2 and 3, with Vilsack capturing Ward 4.

Nationally, Obama, as of press time, was on the verge of running the table with swing states, having already collected Iowa, Colorado, Ohio, New Hampshire, Virginia and Wisconsin. The New York Times reported that Obama held a lead in Florida.

Romney called Obama to concede the race at about midnight.

“I wish all of them well, but particularly the president, the first lady and their daughters,” Romney said in a Boston speech. “This is a time of great challenges for America, and I pray that the president will be successful in guiding our nation.”

One of the major narratives in the election is the growing political muscularity of Latinos. Obama benefited from a game-changing 44-point advantage with Latinos as Romney won 27 percent of that vote, down from the 2008 Republican share of 31 percent, Businessweek reported.