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Seven battleground states: Does economy help Obama or Romney?

Seven states have emerged as battlegrounds that may well determine the 2012 presidential election. Here's a look at seven battleground states and how their economic situation is shaping the presidential election:

- Staff writer

Vice President Joe Biden speaks in Council Bluffs, Iowa, in early October. Iowa has the lowest unemployment rate of any of the battleground states. (Nati Harnik/AP/File)

3. Iowa

The Great Recession never hit Iowa with the full force that it hit other states. Unemployment peaked at 6.3 percent in 2009, more than three percentage points below the national average and two percentage points below the level the Hawkeye State hit during the recessions of the early 1980s.

With unemployment now down to 5.2 percent in September, Iowa has the lowest unemployment rate of the battleground states and fourth-lowest in the nation. (It's tied with Oklahoma.)

Iowa has the nation's lowest per-capita credit card debt in the country. Until the drought, its farmers were doing well. State tax receipts exceeded expectations in fiscal 2012, prompting the state to boost its estimate for fiscal 2013 receipts by nearly 3 percent.

But Iowa's economic future looks less certain. The drought weighs heavily on farmers plans for next year. Federal tax credits for alternative energy are set to expire at year end. Some 8.3 percent of its manufacturing jobs are considered green, twice the national average. And growth for the past year has been only so-so.

The state has added 11,500 jobs over the past year, two-thirds of them in manufacturing, ranking Iowa 33 among the states for job creation. Employment has shrunk in trade, transportation, and utilities as well as leisure and hospitality. If manufacturing slows further – or if the so-called "fiscal cliff" comes to pass, the state's future gains look iffy.

Advantage: Obama, but within the polls' margin of error.


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