One thing we know about this coming election morning in America: there will be no pictures of the incumbent waving at photographers as he ponders the voting machine in his Chicago precinct. That’s because Barack Obama did something last night that no sitting president has done before — he voted ahead of time.
Taxpayers might legitimately ask how much it cost to divert Air Force One from the President’s packed swing-state campaign itinerary yesterday to make the extra Chicago stop. (Determinedly Democrat Illinois is not a place he would normally need to set foot in.) No single vote in history can have cost as much as that one did. But never mind that, Mr Obama had an important point to make.
The Democrats know that getting as many people as possible to vote early will be crucial to maximising turn-out. It seems like the message has been getting through. This reporter watched as a crowd of 16,000, assembled in a park near downtown Denver to see Mr Obama, was asked if they had yet taken advantage of early voting that had begun here two days before. I am just guessing, but it seemed like at least 10,000 hands shot up.
All this matters, because the evidence is that Democrats make use of early voting more than Republicans do. Exactly why isn’t clear. A Time magazine poll this week had Mr Obama beating Mr Romney by a two to one margin among early voters across the country. Meanwhile 11 polls conducted in the swing states showed the president ahead of his challenger by between five and 35 points among those who had already made their choices.
Anxious not to allow anything to get in the way of the notion that their man is ahead, the Republicans claimed in a memo they had cut into the Democrat’s early voting edge in the key state of Ohio and that with early voting Mr Obama was cannibalising votes that he would otherwise get on election day. Team Obama begged to differ: “Like Mitt Romney’s tax plan, the early vote numbers from the GOP just don’t add up.”
There is intense debate over whether the Romney momentum that began after the debate here three weeks ago has started slow. It is hard to divine, but not perhaps out here in the west. A Wall Street Journal/NBC poll last night showed Mr Romney drawing even with the president in Colorado and catching up fast in Nevada.
The main voting day in the US is 6 November.