Iowa was the site of President Obama's sudden rise into the political spotlight, and in 2012 he'll look to recapture that energy.
If the main issue of this election is the economy, Iowa offers a notable exception to the recession's doldrums: It has the best economy of any swing state by far, reporting the nation's fourth-lowest unemployment rate in September (tied with Oklahoma) and has been relatively untroubled by foreclosures.
It's the economic opposite of another battleground state -- Nevada, the national foreclosure epicenter suffering the worst jobless rate in the nation.
Lest those factors paint Iowa as a lock for the president, the Hawkeye state saw some of the closest presidential contests in the nation in 2000 and 2004, when Al Gore won it by 4,144 votes and George W. Bush won it by 10,059.
(The state wasn't close in 2008: Obama defeated John McCain in Iowa by nine percentage points.)
Mitt Romney didn't win this year's Iowa caucuses -- the state party infamously reversed its decision to award Rick Santorum a narrow win, announcing that some caucus ballots had been lost forever -- but in hosting the nation's first GOP primary-season voting contest, the Iowa Republicans generated excitement within their ranks.
Piggybacking on the caucuses, Iowa Republicans used that energy to wrest the lead in party registration from Democrats, who held it in 2008. More of Iowa's voters are independent than partisan, but Republicans lead Democrats by nearly 11,000 after trailing by nearly 115,000 in 2008.
The campaigns have flooded Iowa's airwaves, airing ad after ad in the Cedar Rapids and Des Moines media market -- two of the most heavily trafficked TV markets in the nation, according to Kantar Media's Campaign Media Analysis Group, which tracks political ads nationwide.
CURRENT UNEMPLOYMENT RATE: 5.2 percent, as of September
TREND SINCE OBAMA TOOK OFFICE: Iowa's unemployment rate has fallen since President Obama took office: In January 2009, the Hawkeye State reported 6.1 percent unemployment. The rate peaked at 6.3 percent, where it hovered for 10 consecutive months in 2009. The rate fell steadily before a spike from 5.1 percent in June 2012 to 5.5 percent in August.
MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME:
1,910,703 -- TOTAL
POPULATION: 3,062,309, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2011 estimates
POPULATION BY RACE:
White: 93 percent
Black: 3.1 percent
Asian: 1.9 percent
Hispanic: 5.2 percent