President Obama cast his ballot early in his home state of Illinois on Thursday afternoon, marking the latest episode in the battle between the presidential campaigns over which candidate has the early-voting advantage and what it means.
The Obama campaign has made early voting central to its get-out-the-vote efforts. The president voted at the Martin Luther King Community Center in Chicago at 4:10 p.m.
“Now ignore the fact that there's no gray hair on that picture,” he told the official who inspected his driver’s license.
Earlier in the day, Team Obama sent out an email urging supporters to get to the polls before Election Day.
“This afternoon, I'm casting my ballot in my hometown of Chicago,” Obama says in the message. “I’m told I'll be the first sitting president to take advantage of early voting. ... Look, this race is extremely tight. It's going to come down to which side can more effectively turn out the vote in these final days, and early vote [sic] is a huge part of that. Whether people get out to vote this year, in this election, is even more critical than the last time around.”
Last week, the Obama campaign circulated a memo claiming to be well ahead of Romney among early voters in the critical battleground state of Ohio.
“Today we are ahead of where we were at this time against John McCain — and ahead of Mitt Romney,” national field director Jeremy Bird wrote. “Republicans are similarly talking up their ground game and early vote numbers, but their assertions rest on much shakier ground.”
The Bird memo pointed to four polls that show Obama with leads of between 19 and 52 points in Ohio among early voters and argued the demographics and geography of those who had voted early strongly favors the president.
A Time magazine poll released on Wednesday showed Obama leading Romney by a 2-to-1 ratio among those who have already voted.
The Bird memo set off a back and forth between the parties over who has the real early-voting advantage and what it means.
The Republican National Committee called the Obama campaign memo “panicked,” and argued that Republicans have been shrinking the president’s lead in Ohio early voting.
On Thursday, the GOP also countered with a blog post titled “GOP brings in new voters; Democrats taking from Election Day voters.” The blog argued that early voting cannibalizes a candidate’s Election Day turnout.
Republicans also said Democrats were mistakenly focusing on “high propensity voters” who would’ve turned out on Election Day anyway, whereas the Romney campaign was targeting “those Romney supporters who are less likely to vote and banking those votes during the early vote period.”
Democratic National Committee executive director Patrick Gaspard shot back in a memo titled “GOP ground game bluff” on Thursday.
“Like Mitt Romney’s tax plan, the early vote numbers from the GOP just don’t add up,” the memo stated.
Gaspard cited 11 polls from five battleground states that showed Obama with leads of between 5 and 35 points among those who have already voted. The memo also included charts that showed Democrats outpacing Republicans in total ballots cast and absentee ballot requests in most swing states.
Updated at 5:56 p.m.