CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois voters went to the polls Tuesday feeling better about their financial situation than they did four years ago, helping President Barack Obama clinch another resounding victory in his home state and a second term in Washington.
Obama won about 84 percent of the vote in Chicago and held on to the state's most populous suburban counties, though his margins were down slightly in his hometown and more sizably in the suburbs compared to 2008. Still, it was enough to win about 57.4 percent statewide over Republican Mitt Romney.
In exit polling, voters listed the economy as their highest priority, but most said their family's financial outlook — and the nation's overall — was better or the same as four years ago. And a majority pinned the blame for the nation's ongoing economic woes on the president's predecessor, George W. Bush, rather than Obama.
Timothy Rowe, 23, a hospital research coordinator from Chicago, was among those who said the president deserved another term.
"Anyone who thinks that in four years we could have solved all the problems we inherited is deluding themselves," Rowe said. "I do think we're moving in the right direction."
Romney supporter Barb Lynn, 38, of Hoffman Estates, wasn't convinced.
"The president had his chance, and he screwed it up," Lynn said. "It is time to get a Republican back and fix this country."
Obama wasn't the only Democratic candidate celebrating Tuesday night. His party picked up four U.S. House seats in Illinois and maintained control of the General Assembly, thanks in large part to new maps drawn in a process controlled by Democrats.
The president's win in Illinois never was seriously in doubt, but the question lingered as to whether the state would show the same enthusiasm it did in his historic victory four years ago, when Obama won close to 62 percent over Republican Sen. John McCain.
Preliminary numbers showed turnout was down in Chicago, with about 70.9 percent of registered voters going to the polls. That's a drop from nearly 74 percent turnout in 2008.
And while Obama carried every age group and won among both men and women, his support among whites — the biggest group of voters — slipped. Romney was almost tied with Obama among whites, and most white men favored the former Massachusetts governor.
Blacks and Hispanics overwhelmingly backed Obama, however, and he won a notably bigger share of Hispanics than four years ago, exit polling showed.
Voters seemed evenly divided over Obama's signature health-care law, the Affordable Care Act, and whether it should be repealed.
Retired railroad engineer William Jaworski, 70, said he is a Democrat but voted for Romney partly because of the law, often referred to as Obamacare.
"The Obamacare makes me nervous," said Jaworski, of Elk Grove Village. "I don't think it would affect me personally because I have supplemental insurance, but I don't like it all where they're going to try and force the Catholic church and the Catholic hospitals and Catholic institutions to (supply) contraceptives and things that are against the churches teaching."
A majority of voters agreed with Obama on two social issues he has advocated: legal recognition for gay marriage and giving illegal immigrants a way to apply for permanent residency.
"I'm shocked that a sitting president would come out and say he supports gay marriage," said Linda Sherwood, 50, a house remodeler from Springfield who voted for Obama. "I was hoping he was going that way ... He never ceases to amaze me."
Obama won 74 percent of the vote in Cook County overall, including Chicago. He also squeaked by in traditionally Republican DuPage County, which broke a streak of voting for the GOP presidential candidate when it backed Obama in 2008, and won Kane, Lake and Will counties. Romney won most of less populated counties in southern and western Illinois.
Standing before a jubilant crowd at McCormick Place convention center in Chicago, Obama said that while the road has been hard, the country has "fought our way back" and that the best is yet to come.