WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama won't be posing for any photos in the voting booth on Election Day — he's casting his ballot early.
Obama and first lady Michelle Obama said Monday they are both voting early, a nod to the campaign's efforts to encourage supporters to vote absentee by mail or cast their ballot at an early voting location. Mrs. Obama said on Twitter that she dropped her absentee ballot in the mail on Monday, telling her followers, "I couldn't wait for Election Day!" The first lady then tweeted out a photo of her posing with the envelope holding her absentee ballot.
Minutes later, the president said on Twitter that he was following Mrs. Obama's example and intended to vote early in person in Illinois on Oct. 25 — three days after the final presidential debate. "If your state has early voting, join me," Obama said on Twitter, directing followers to a link with more information about early voting.
Obama's campaign said it was the first time a presidential nominee and his spouse will not vote in person on Election Day, reflecting their emphasis on early voting in several key battleground states. Obama dominated early voting in 2008, giving him an edge over Republican John McCain well before Election Day.
In Colorado, Florida, Iowa and North Carolina, for example, Obama banked so many votes early in the process that he won each state even though he lost the Election Day vote, according to voting data compiled by The Associated Press.
The carefully choreographed early voting announcement was part of a big push this week. Obama plans to discuss early voting in Ohio and Iowa on Wednesday, after Tuesday's second presidential debate. The first lady was discussing early voting at events in Ohio on Monday, in North Carolina on Tuesday and in Wisconsin on Friday.
Obama has repeatedly urged supporters to vote early, placing an emphasis on absentee and early voting during recent rallies in battleground states such as Florida, Iowa and Ohio. The strategy aims to free up campaign workers and volunteers on Nov. 6 to focus on a smaller number of potential supporters and make sure they get to the polls.
Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's campaign has targeted supporters who don't typically vote in every election, placing a premium on getting those voters to cast early ballots. Most of Romney's remaining supporters would be people who are much more likely to vote, regardless of whether they are contacted by the campaign.
Obama's campaign has tried to bolster in-person early voting in states where that is already under way and reduce Republicans' typical advantage in absentee voting. Democrats lead Republicans in Iowa in vote-by-mail ballots and in-person early voting; in Ohio, Democrats have requested and cast more ballots than Republicans. In Florida, Obama's campaign has cut into the GOP's advantage in absentee ballots.
Analysts estimate that about one-third of all voters could cast their ballots before Election Day.