DES MOINES -- President Bush won Iowa yesterday, finishing the 2004 campaign with wins in all three of the states that were still up in the air on election night.
The last result came in the state that started the election year with its party caucuses in January. Although Democratic Senator John F. Kerry had conceded the race for the White House on Wednesday, the counting of absentee ballots continued in Iowa, which had been too close to call.
By yesterday, Bush had 745,980 votes and Kerry had 732,764, with the number of outstanding ballots too few to change the outcome.
Long after the polls closed Tuesday, Bush won Ohio, which gave him the 270 electoral votes necessary for a second term, and then he won New Mexico.
With Iowa decided yesterday, Bush finished with 286 electoral votes and Kerry 252.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won Iowa and New Mexico. The only Republican-to-Democratic switch this year was New Hampshire.
The Democrats' defeat in Iowa reflects a larger problem for them in the Midwest and across the political map.
Along with Wisconsin and Minnesota, Iowa and its seven electoral votes are part of the once-Democratic Upper Midwest that is growing more conservative with each presidential election. Kerry won Minnesota by three percentage points, Wisconsin by one percentage point.
In addition, Michigan and Pennsylvania went Democratic by three percentage points or less, and Bush won Ohio despite its economic miseries.
Democrats hope to cultivate the Southwest as a fertile substitute for Midwest losses, but Bush narrowed Democratic advantages among Hispanics in the region.
So GOP "red states" dominated the Electoral College map, with dashes of blue saved for the West Coast and Northeast as well as the shifting Midwest.
Kerry began campaigning in Iowa nearly three years ago. His surprising win in the Jan. 19 caucuses over a slate of eight other candidates gave him the momentum to claim the Democratic nomination.
In Iowa, absentee ballots had to be postmarked by Nov. 1, and those received by county auditors up until noon Monday can be counted.
Special precinct boards also have been reviewing provisional ballots that were cast.
The state will not certify its results until Nov. 29.
Iowa Secretary of State Chet Culver had asked the public for patience while the state pursued its vote-counting process, which has been in place for 30 years.
Both the Bush and the Kerry campaigns had worked hard to capture Iowa's electoral votes, with a steady stream of visitors in the weeks leading up to Election Day.
Before this year, the last Republican to carry Iowa was Ronald Reagan in 1984.