, CHICAGO, Oct 26 – Barack Obama became the first US president to cast an early vote on Thursday, delighting supporters on a quick trip to his hometown of Chicago, squeezed into a punishing eight-state campaign blitz.
Obama, who jokes with his crowds that he will not reveal who won his vote, then set course for a late night rally in Ohio, shaping up as the pivotal state in a tight race with Republican Mitt Romney, now just 12 days away.
In a slightly incongruous scene, Obama, possibly the most famous man in the world, returned to a neighborhood near his vacant home, in all the hullabaloo of a presidential motorcade and presented his ID for scrutiny.
Then he stood behind a touch screen machine to cast his vote, in a move designed to convince supporters to also go to the polls early, to help him build up a lead over Romney in a neck-and-neck race.
“All across the country, we are seeing a lot of early voting,” the president said, saying advance balloting freed voters from having to work out childcare or to take days off work on election day November 6.
At a stop at a campaign office, he warned supporters: “If we let up and our voters don’t turn out, we could lose this election. Now the good news is, if our voters do turn out, we will definitely win the election.”
The president’s aides are privately signaling increasing confidence that he will prevail on November 6. But Romney also sought to convince his supporters, that he, not Obama will spend the next four years in the White House.
“We want change, we want big change; we’re ready,” Romney said in Ohio, stealing the president’s mantra from four years ago and accusing the incumbent Democrat of waging a nasty, negative campaign drained of new ideas.
“The Obama campaign doesn’t have a plan. The Obama campaign is slipping because he’s talking about smaller and smaller things despite the fact that America has such huge challenges,” said Romney, 56.
“If we let up and our voters don’t turn out, we could lose this election.”
Romney says that the sluggish economy is Obama’s fault for not pursuing policies that will trigger swift growth while the president warns Americans have come too far out of recession to risk the progress with Republicans.
The closer the election gets, the more the bad feeling seems to show. In a Rolling Stone interview published Thursday Obama told the magazine’s executive editor Eric Bates, that children had excellent political instincts.
“They look at the other guy and say, ‘Well, that’s a bullshitter, I can tell’.” he said, in remarks widely viewed as a jab at Romney, who Obama has accused of lacking principle and shifting positions for political gain.
Romney’s campaign spokesman Kevin Madden offered a scathing response.
“President Obama is rattled and on the defensive. He’s running on empty and has nothing left but attacks and insults. It’s unfortunate he has to close the final days of the campaign this way,” he said.
Obama’s team says he still has multiple routes to the 270 electoral votes needed to win the presidency in the state-by-state race, and is literally playing on an extended political map.
After an overnight flight from Nevada to Florida, Obama pumped up a large crowd in Virginia before hopping up to Chicago to vote, before ending the day with a classic of US elections — an airport rally — in Cleveland.
In two days that also took in battlegrounds Iowa, and Colorado, and a trip to the “Tonight Show with Jay Leno” in Los Angeles, Obama covered more than 7,000 miles and racked up 40 hours of travel.