In Convention Run-Up, Obama Targets Three States
President Obama holds a Labor Day campaign rally in Toledo, Ohio, on Monday, and then flies to Louisiana to inspect the damage from Hurricane Isaac. The Toledo rally is part of a long weekend of campaigning, leading up to the Democratic National Convention, which starts Tuesday in Charlotte, N.C.
The president held a rally with thousands of students at the University of Colorado over the weekend. Just five days earlier, he'd been at Colorado State. Obama is hoping to harness the cross-state rivalry between the schools in the service of his re-election campaign.
"We've set up a Rocky Mountain rumble to see which school can register more voters, CU or Colorado State," Obama said.
Campaign volunteers worked the crowd to sign up voters on the spot. Obama also plugged his campaign's online registration site, just as he does at every campaign appearance.
"Just over two months from now, for the first time in many of your lives, you will get a chance to pick a president," he said.
In some parts of the country, voters won't have to wait two months to cast their ballots. In Iowa, where Obama campaigned Saturday, the window for voting opens just over three weeks from now.
In Ohio, voting begins Oct. 2 — more than a month before what's quaintly referred to as Election Day.
Nationwide, about 30 percent of all votes were cast early in 2008. In Colorado, the ratio was nearly 80 percent.
Obama campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki said that's one reason the campaign is devoting so much attention to these states at what could be a pivotal point in the race.
"Early voting and encouraging people to vote by mail, get engaged and involved early has always been a big part of our focus. In many of these states we've had people on the ground since 2008, and that's where we felt it was important to invest," Psaki said.
By locking in some votes early, a campaign can minimize last-minute surprises, and Election Day snafus. It also allows for a smoother get-out-the-vote effort, since not all the work has to be focused on a single, frantic day.
North Carolina is another state where more than half of all ballots will be cast before Election Day. Obama has promised to use this week's Democratic convention in North Carolina as an organizing tool. The convention is also a chance to underscore the contrasts between his agenda and the GOP's on issues ranging from health care to tax policy to green energy.
"You can choose an energy plan written by and for the oil companies," Obama said. "Or you can choose what I've offered: an all of the above strategy for American energy."
In Boulder on Sunday, Obama noted that wind and solar power are responsible for some 10,000 jobs in Colorado.
One of those jobs belongs to Chris Wolf, who said, "I spent a year down at the national renewable energy laboratory, and now I'm with a private firm doing similar stuff — renewable energy research."
Wolf, who received his MBA from the University of Colorado, was having breakfast at The Buff, a popular restaurant near the school, when the president dropped by for a surprise visit.
Wolf applauded the president's support for alternative energy. He also liked the president's breakfast order of the Ole Skillet — green chili and eggs on a bed of potatoes. The restaurant was crowded with customers enjoying breakfast mimosas and Bloody Marys.
Obama later warned students at CU that all that good food and drink could be a distraction: "I was thinking to myself, you know I could see folks, like, forgetting to vote," Obama said. "They're having too much fun. But that's why you're so important. You're going to have to set an example for the person next to you in class. You're going to have to remind them: Have you voted yet?"
And Obama is urging supporters not to wait. He's embraced at least the first half of that old Chicago political mantra: vote early — if not often.
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