Having shouted himself hoarse for two days urging supporters to vote, and vote early, President Obama flew to Chicago to do so himself this afternoon, on his way to an evening rally here in Ohio. His campaign says he is the first sitting president to vote for himself ahead of Election Day. In casting his ballot early, Mr. Obama is providing a very personal endorsement of a system that was enormously successful for him in 2008, and may be the key to his re-election hopes. His narrow win in North Carolina four years ago was driven in large part by early voters, who turned out in larger numbers than those on Election Day, and tended to support Mr. Obama. They also gave him a winning margin in Iowa, Florida and Colorado.
Early voting is popular among those with inflexible work or transportation schedules, who often tend to be lower-income, elderly, or minority voters and are thus more likely to be Democrats. In North Carolina four years ago, more than half the black vote was cast before Election Day, compared to 40 percent of the white vote. In many states, black voters went directly to the polls from church on the Sunday before Election Day.