President Obama Stops In Chicago To Vote Early

After barnstorming through half a dozen battleground states this week, President Obama stopped in Chicago to vote. He became the first sitting president to vote early in person.

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. One ad for President Obama illustrates this campaign's final phase.

INSKEEP: Lena Dunham, the 26-year-old creator of the TV series "Girls," looks at the camera and talks of your first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF POLITICAL ADVERTISEMENT)

LENA DUNHAM: Your first time shouldn't be with just anybody. You want to do it with a great guy. It should be with a guy with beautiful - someone who really cares about and understands women.

INSKEEP: Dunham means your first time voting. The Obama campaign hopes to boost the youth vote.

MONTAGNE: Democrats, who've been expressing delight with this ad, and Republicans, some of whom call it cringe-worthy, take different approaches to voter turnout.

INSKEEP: For example, the president broke with tradition yesterday and voted in Chicago, hoping to promote early voting. Here's NPR's Scott Horsley.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: The polling place at Chicago's Martin Luther King Community Center is supposed to be a campaign-free zone. President Obama couldn't resist offering a few thoughts yesterday on how easy and convenient it is to vote days or even weeks before a Tuesday in early November.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: 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.

HORSLEY: Minutes earlier, Mr. Obama had cast his own ballot, after a Chicago elections official gave some close scrutiny to the president's ID.

OBAMA: Did you just look and see?

(LAUGHTER)

OBAMA: Did you guys see that?

HORSLEY: Presidents and presidential candidates have traditionally summoned the cameras to record their vote on Election Day. But Mr. Obama was eager to shine a spotlight on early voting, which is a growing phenomenon in many states and a key ingredient in the president's re-election strategy.

Republicans generally downplay the strategic significance of early voting. They say while it might be convenient, they don't believe it adds much to the overall pool of voters. In other words, every vote that's cast early is one fewer coming in on Election Day. The Obama campaign looks at early voting very differently.

JEN PSAKI: Our view is that early voting is an opportunity to get people out who may not otherwise go to the polls on Election Day.

HORSLEY: Jen Psaki is a campaign spokeswoman.

PSAKI: People are busy. I know. They're working double shifts. They're in school. They're picking up their kids from soccer practice. So a vote before Election Day can actually be more valuable than a vote on Election Day.

HORSLEY: That's why early voting was a big part of the president's message at nearly every stop on this week's whirlwind campaign odyssey, which took Mr. Obama from the Mississippi River to the Rocky Mountains, the desert Southwest to the Gulf Coast of Florida, and finally to the all-important industrial heartland of Ohio.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

OBAMA: You notice my voice is getting a little hoarse. But I'm just going to keep on keepin' on until every single person out there who needs to vote is going to go vote.

HORSLEY: Along the way, Mr. Obama telephoned campaign volunteers and undecided voters, paying special attention to African-Americans, Latinos, union members and women. Supporter Laura Starkey, who introduced the president in Tampa, talked about her own reliance as a single mother on Planned Parenthood for health care. Republican Mitt Romney wants to strip government funding for that.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

LAURA STARKEY: Mitt Romney doesn't get it. For him and his buddies, Planned Parenthood is a villain and a punching bag. No matter what he says otherwise, just look at the company he keeps and the candidates he endorses. That's Romney's vision for America's women: where Washington politicians can tell us what we can and can't do with our bodies.

HORSLEY: The Obama campaign has been reminding women this week about Governor Romney's support for Indiana Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who sparked controversy when he said that abortion is wrong even in the case of rape, because if a rape victim becomes pregnant, it's what God intended. While Romney also opposes abortion, he would make an exception in rape cases.

After logging thousands of miles over the last two days, Mr. Obama is home in Washington today. But aides predict a pedal-to-the-metal campaign schedule between now and November 6th.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED")

STEVIE WONDER: (Singing) Like a fool I went and stayed too long. Now I'm wondering if your love's still strong. Ooh, baby. Here I am, signed, sealed, delivered. I'm yours.

HORSLEY: As he tries to close the deal with voters, Mr. Obama has adopted a familiar musical cue from his 2008 campaign. His rallies now end with Stevie Wonder echoing the president's call to get ballots signed, sealed and delivered. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington.

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