This presidential election is shaping up to be a close one, and the candidates are battling over a dozen or so swing states that will decide the outcome. One of those states is Iowa, with its six Electoral College votes.

Democrat Barack Obama won Iowa handily in 2008, but polls show a much closer race this time around. Those polls, coupled with an analysis of Iowa’s voter registration data, offer some very encouraging news for Obama’s Republican challenger Mitt Romney.

First, some history. In 2004, Republican George W. Bush narrowly carried Iowa with 751,957 votes (50%) to Democrat John Kerry’s 741,898 votes (49%). At the time of the election that year, there were 610,336 active registered Republican voters in Iowa, compared to 605,934 active registered Democrats and 748,393 active registered independents. In percentage terms, 31% of the state’s active registered voters were Republicans, 31% were Democrats, and 38% were independents.

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