Today, President Obama forewent a traditional election day photo op, and instead opted to vote early in his adopted home city of Chicago. On his campaign website, he explained just why he was going to vote ahead of time:
I’m breaking with tradition. Instead of voting on Election Day, which has been the standard for presidential candidates, I’m making a plan to vote early, on October 25. And if you live in a state where you can, I’d like you to join me. Voting early is pretty easy. It only takes a couple of minutes. It means that if Election Day happens to be a busy day for you, you don’t need to worry about when and how you’ll cast your ballot.
In fact, much of the Obama website is devoted to early voting. That’s because they’re trying to generate headlines about Obama enthusiasm. Jeremy Bird, Obama’s National Field Director, admits as much:
Early vote has always been a top priority for our grassroots organization in Ohio, and it’s now paying off in major ways. Before the first day of early vote, hundreds of students camped out at The Ohio State University in Columbus, in Cincinnati, Dayton and elsewhere, braving bad weather to be the first at the polls at 5:00 a.m. On that first day, more Ohioans voted in the largest counties—all counties the President won in 2008—than did on the first day of early vote four years ago ….
President Obama leads Mitt Romney by double-digits in every public poll of early voters. A new Time poll shows the President up 60-30 overall, with big leads among women and voters younger than 40.
They’re trying to skew the numbers early, so that it looks like President Obama has momentum. That’s why he told Tampa today, “We can vote early in Illinois, just like you can vote right now in Florida. So I've come to Florida today to ask you for your vote. I've come to ask you to help me keep moving America forward.” And in Vegas, he said: “Everywhere we’re going, we’re seeing great crowds, people are enthusiastic, people, a lot of them, have already voted because they’re taking advantage of early voting.”
But just like the rest of the Obama presidency, the early voting gambit is all style and no substance. The folks who are voting early, it turns out, are all members of the Obama base who would vote anyway on Election Day. As the GOP has written:
In states where Democrats have more early votes (IA, OH, NV) they are investing significant resources in turning out “high propensity voters” – those who have voted in either 3 or 4 of the past 4 general elections. In Ohio this is particularly stark. There are 1,005,601 registered Democrats who fit this description. 42.96% of them have already voted or requested a ballot.
The great secret behind the Obama focus on early voting is dramatic lack of enthusiasm with the Obama base. Obama fears that many of his potential voters will stay home on Election Day rather than heading to the polls; they’re simply not excited about. So he’s making his list, checking it twice, and ensuring that his voters are nice rather than naughty on Election Day.
This is the sign of a campaign in trouble. You don’t have to worry about early voting when your base is certain to show up on Election Day. The Obama campaign had no such worries in 2008.