CLEVELAND, Ohio – President Obama on Thursday joined many Americans not waiting until election day to cast their ballots, becoming a model for his campaign’s get-out-the-vote strategy.
Joking that he “can’t tell you who” won his vote, Obama cast his ballot at an Chicago early voting center, becoming the first sitting president vote early in person.
Pushing voters to follow suit is at the heart of the Obama campaign’s endgame. Particularly in Iowa, Ohio, Nevada and Florida, the campaign is trying to build up a bank of votes that even rising enthusiasm for Republican nominee Mitt Romney’s momentum couldn’t overwhelm.
Obama’s campaign even interrupted a 48-hour battleground state blitz just to make the president a spokesman for the strategy.
From a rally in Richmond, Va., Obama jetted to his hometown and went straight to the Martin Luther King Community Center, the early voting center in his Kenwood neighborhood. As he arrived, he passed bystanders cheering and waving. One held a sign: “Welcome Home, Mr. President.”
Obama greeted poll workers and showed his driver’s license, making the obligatory joke about his lack of gray hair in the photo. Early voters in Chicago have to show identification – a driver’s license, state-issued ID card, college ID card or another government-issued ID with a photo will do. They also must sign papers requesting to vote early and canceling their absentee ballots.
A diligent poll worker gave his license a close look-see, and another handed Obama the paperwork.
When a poll worker asked whether everything was in order, the president said he hoped so.
“If not, this will be really embarrassing,” he joked.
Obama voted on a touchscreen machine and emerged with a ringing endorsement for the easy process. (One made even easier, he did not note, if you don’t have to take a plane to your polling place.)
“For all of you who have not yet early-voted, I just want everybody to see what an incredibly efficient process this was,” Obama told reporters. “It means you don’t have to figure out whether you need to take time off work, figure out how to pick up the kids and still cast a ballot. If something happens on election day, you will have already taken care of it. If it’s bad weather, you won’t get wet. Or in Chicago, snowy. But this was really convenient.”
Obama has been joking on the campaign trail that he won’t reveal whom he cast his ballot for. He repeated the line at the polling place on Thursday. First Lady Michelle Obama was not so shy. She sent her ballot in by mail and declared that her husband got her vote.
After Obama finished, the president asked a poll worker whether that was all there was to it.
“I voted?” he asked, before heading to Ohio for another rally.
“Yes, sir,” the poll worker said.